I once had an odd friend.

He took a twenty-gallon plastic tub and filled it to the top with Clorox-brand bleach. He put on a diver's eye goggles and dipped the top of his head into the pungent liquid as the first step in dyeing his hair the color of his idol.

Some time after that ill-fated attempt at ultra-fanboyism, I ran into him at a local fast-food resturant. As he played with his wirey, damaged, now-shaved head, he somewhat bitterly mumbled five words at me, "Andy Warhol wore a wig." I wrote many haiku about that.
"If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me - and there I am. There's nothing behind it"

Andrew Warhola was born in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928. He was the youngest of the three sons of Czech immigrants, Andrej and Julia Warholas.

Most of his formative years were spent in in McKeesport, and Andy was spotted early as demonstrating a prodigious talent for design and drawing. Despite his father' death when he was 14, and having three nervous breakdowns he managed to gather enough money to attend the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as Carnegie Mellon University).

Andy graduated with a Bachelors degree in Pictorial Design, and moved to New York with the soon-to-be-famous realist painter Phillip Pearlstein. Andy simplified his surname to Warhol, and went on the lookout for work, landing illustration work for Glamour, which led to him being appointed to the art department of the I.Miller shoe store. All the time through this job he was still working freelance producing record covers and book illustrations. The amount of work he was creating made him one of the highest paid commercial artists in the USA, and by 1953, necessitated that he acquire an agent, which he did when he employed Fritzie Miller.

His work was becoming more and more popular, and in 1956 and 1957 he won the Art Directors Club award for distinctive merit, and in 1957 the Art Directors Club Medal, for his I. Miller adverts. It was around this time that he realised he had gone as far as he could in the commercial art world, and he began to look to fine art as a career.

His early work was seen as a challenge to the abstract expressionism of artists such as Willem De Kooning and Jackson Pollock, as it consisted of cleanly executed and emotionless drawings and prints of household objects. The watershed year for Warhol in his new career, and also for his new style dubbed Pop Art, was 1962, when the now instantly recognisable Campbells Soup Cans were first exhibited in Los Angeles, at the Ferus Gallery, along with his print portraits of Ginger Rogers, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.

In 1964, Warhol moved into his new apartments on 231 East 47th Street, that became known as 'The Factory', partially because of the mass-production techniques that Warhol was employing, as he rarely lifted a brush. This new studio became a magnet for hangers on, who provided inspiration for Warhols work, which was becoming more and more experimental. His work in film which had started with the deliberately tedious 'Eat', 'Haircut' and 'Sleep', culminated in his first film featuring sound, 'Harlot' which featured transvestites playing Mae West and Marilyn Monroe. In 1967 he branched into music when he produced the The Velvet Underground's first single.

Andy had a close brush with death on June 5, 1968, when he was shot by Valerie Solanis, the man-hating founder and sole member of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), forcing him to recuperate for a year. This event caused him to rethink his work, in an effort to cultivate his image as a recorder of the society around him, lead to him creating 'Inter/View' magazine, which sported the famous line claiming eveyone would have 15 minutes of fame. He started attending parties every night and was often seen at Studio 54 with celebrities suchas Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, and Cher scouting out new talent for the magazine.

He continued his artwork throughout the 70's and 80's producing series of pieces around themes such as Endangered Species, Skulls, Torsoes and Oxidisation. Andy Warhol died in February 1987 following routine surgery.

"In principle a work of art has always been reproducible... The work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the 'authentic' print makes no sense" (Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" reprinted in Illuminations, Schocken Books, 1968, p. 218 and p. 224).

Andy Warhol, through his art, emphasizes the reproducability and repeatability of each work of art and obviously not only his own. He commented on exactly this:

"De Chirico repeated the same images over and over again. I like the idea a lot, so I thought it would be great to do it. I believe he viewed repetition as a way of expressing himself. This is probably what we have in common. The difference? What he repeated regularly, year after year, I repeat the same day in the same painting. All my images are the same, but very different at the same time" (Andy Warhol quoted in Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, Bantam Books, 1989, p. 326).

And not only are all works repeated, but they are repeatable, and therefore always already repetitions of themselves. If they weren't already repetitions they couldn't be taken as aesthetic objects in the first place. Warhol is showing us the impossibility of an irreproducible work of art. What would a work of art that can't be reproduced look like? How could it be called by this name: "art"? And by citing his own works and those of other artists over and over, by reproducing these works, and often on the same canvas!, Warhol questioned the presence of any originality in the work of art. This reproduction of images reveals that all images are reproductions in a system of infinite citability. Warhol's art recites the simulacrul nature of art in the postmodern sense: museum art, famous art, pop art, commodified art, and that place at which art has culminated in our capitalistic now: graphic design. Warhol's art isn't a mimetic imitation of an image-awaiting-reproduction, but the very act by which representation and originality is overturned. Art, like everything else, isn't a representation of anything. Reproduction never stops because it never got started.

The infinite repetition of the image in Warhol's works endlessly defers the arrival of the original at the scene of art. It is this endlessness, the never-ceasing repetition of the image, that we are forever waiting with. What is the image a representation of anyway? What would the original look like? How would we distinguish it from a copy? What makes it the original? Isn't it citable, reproducible in exactitude, and therefore already duplicated even before it arrives in the gallery? Do we see the painting first or the downsized image on the exhibition's invitations? Do we see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or in the art history text or in the advertisement for milk on the television? Which Mona Lisa is more real? Which is the original? This endless repetition of the image, even before the image arrives at its so-called 'artistic' context, constantly calls into question the assumption that only one of the copies of the work is 'the art' or 'the real painting'. (Warhol was not the only one to copy Da Vinci's Mona Lisa or The Last Supper. There are also the countless forgeries that circulate through the moneyed world of art collectors. There are also the countless reproductions that are authorized by the owners of the works. There is the poster of Gertrude Stein that hangs in my living room. Is it Gertrude Stein? Is it not the real her? It is titled Gertrude Stein. (Picasso admitted that this painting did not bear a resemblance, and he insisted that she would come to resemble the portrait he had painted of her.))

Warhol stands in contrast to a long aesthetic tradition. Art has always prided itself on the originality of its works, just as philosophy praised the logos as the origin. Aestheticians, the artists, and their patrons, posited the original status of great works of art, thereby granting themselves a series of privileges to power in the process. Their paintings are supposedly immediate and irreproducible objects representing a sublime meaning, an aesthetic genius, or some other mark of exclusivity. Warhol, in reproducing everything, produced a vulgar work of art, thereby revealing the vulgarity of all art, the vulgarity of Van Gogh's Pair of Shoes. Before Warhol stumbled along, of course, artists and theorists were already calling into question the original as the paradigm aesthetic unit. In cubism, there is a multiplication of the scenes of viewing the object represented in the work. The mandolin is seen from potentially all angles at once, perforating the painting with a difference that undermines its own identity. In the works of Pollock or Rothko there is finally an explicit denial of representation as a form of expression, perforating the painting with the immense possibility of infinite difference. Yet we still have in all of these artists the notion of the original. Pollock's paintings still present themselves as self-standing objects hanging on some particular wall somewhere. The same might be said of Warhol's works, yet here we have the mark of repetition so boldly stamped all over the work that one can't but help notice the extent to which a Warhol painting is not identical even with itself -- it isn't in any classical sense an original work of art. There is in his art the presence of the absence of the original, which runs much deeper than the absence of the original that is already so common in the art world, and was already common to avant-garde artists like Picasso or Pollock. The infinite reproduction of Warhol's chosen images, be it the Mona Lisa or a can of Campbell's soup, imprints on all of his works the absence of an original. By repeating his works, and by doing it himself, and to such a great extent, each repetition bears an explicit mark of the absence of originality. All Warhols are Warhols-in-a-series. Does it make sense to speak of any particular serialized object as being more original than any of the others in its series?

I am not offering criticism of Warhol; I am tracing his texts. The concept or category 'original' breaks before his images.

According to a biography written by Bob Collacello -who worked for Andy at Interview Magazine in it's early years- Warhol frequented a bar in NYC's West Village called "Urine". Amongst other really fucked up/cool-ass things, Urine boasted a "tub that people would piss into"* which had a "stack of Tiffany teacups"* that "people would use to dip into and drink from the tub."* It is this bar that is said to have influenced his "Urine and Piss" series of screen prints (Warhols preferred medium), some of which were actually inked with urine.

Another time, "Warhol superstar" and sometime chauffeur Gerard Malanga was taking Jackie Kennedy Onassis to meet Andy for dinner when he became dopesick. Without her knowledge (and without the benefit of tinted windows) he brought her to Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood so that he could cop drugs. Imagine the prim and proper sophisticate Jackie O, sitting in the backseat of a car in Bed-Stuy and cruising for heroin........ "Fuckin' Nuts."**

* all quotes are from "Holy Terror - Andy Warhol Close Up"
By: Bob Colacello
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st ed edition (August, 1990)

** except "Fuckin Nuts."
That's mine.

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