Photography has always occupied a central place in Andy Warhol’s work, as a process essential to the development of his silkscreen paintings, and as a theoretical pillar of the Pop Art movement. Initially, he appropriated images from various sources, including advertising and newspapers, introducing a collaborative element into his work. His famous Marilyn and Elvis series, among others, relied heavily on existent photographs. Later, influenced perhaps by the misappropriation lawsuit initiated by Erle Loran against Roy Lichtenstein in 1962, Warhol took his silkscreen portraits in a new direction by working from his own photographs, thereby skirting the issue of original artistic authorship which is still the subject of much debate todayAndy Warhol wanted to be a machine. He reasoned that machines had it easy, envying their efficiency. Beginning in the early ’60s, virtually everything he did involved mechanization. To make art an industrial product, he churned out silkscreens in a studio dubbed the Factory. But the truth is that he was less a machine than a foreman. Then in 1971, Polaroid released the Big Shot, an instant camera priced at $19.95 and designed to take “portraits that you can’t mess up”. It was just what Warhol needed finally to become a robot.Warhol took his Big Shot everywhere, shooting celebrities ranging from Blondie to Muhammad Ali. He also used it in the studio to make portraits, dusting his wealthy subjects with white powder and photographing them against a white wall in bright light. Sometimes he took three hundred Polaroids before choosing the one he wanted blown up and silkscreened on canvas.
Though these Polaroids were never really meant to be shown, they’ve been exhibited extensively over the past few years in museums from Los Angeles to Poughkeepsie, and a strong selection is now on view at the new Polaroid Museum in Las Vegas. As with most Warhol ephemera, they’re riveting, the postmodern equivalent of Michelangelo’s preparatory drawings. (Whereas Michelangelo is unmistakably present even when depicting Adam or Jesus, Warhol is mysteriously absent even in his self-portraits.)
Pressing the shutter over and over, Warhol becomes part of the camera’s mechanism. He can’t mess up because the camera won’t let him. And that has an unexpected effect. As he explained it, “all my images are the same, but very different at the same time.” His mechanistic repetitiveness coaxed his subjects to reveal different facets of themselves, as if they were alone in a photobooth (a method he used, incidentally, before the Big Shot was invented). That’s why so many of his Polaroids of socialites and celebrities have the intimacy of selfies.
And the silkscreens he made from them? Always keen to please his clients – who paid him $25,000 for a portrait – he was careful to touch up any human blemish. Warhol’s ’70s and ’80s silkscreens are mechanization incarnate, the perfectly boring product of industrial logic.
Una de las mayores fascinaciones y pasiones de Warhol era la fotografía, la cual combinaba con la pintura y las diferentes instalaciones. En su acervo, se encuentra una gran colección de fotografías tomadas con una sencilla cámara polaroid, en donde un gran número de celebridades de los setentas y ochentas posaban para la lente del artista.
De una manera natural y sin retoques, Ali, Johnny Cash, John Lennon y Jim Morrison se sumaban a la fila de retratos que formarían parte del arte pop que actualmente es representativo de la cultura pop. Entre las obras menos conocidas de Warhol se encuentran un sinfín de retratos de celebridades, pero además también se dedicaba a retratar a personas comunes, en especiales a personas que se dedicaban al surf.
En una exhibición de más de 250 imágenes se presentó por primera vez en el Museo Nasher de la Universidad de Duke en 2010. La fotos mostraban a íconos como Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Debbie Harry, Dolly Parton, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Diane Von Furstenberg, Muhammad Ali, Liza Minelly y al mismo Warhol vestido y maquillado como mujer.
A pesar de que Warhol siempre proclamó su amor por la fotografía, estas polaroids no salen a la luz frecuentemente y son un vistazo más a la carrera de uno de los artistas más relevantes del siglo XX.