Thursday, June 21, 2012

Before They Were Famous

Portrait of Andy Warhol posing in front of "Birmingham" Race Riot, The Factory, New York City, 1964.
Before They Were Famous: Behind The Lens of William John Kennedy
by Jill Lynne

As someone  who photographed Andy Warhol and the Factory scene in the 1970s and 1980s, I was curious to see how another photographer, a generation earlier – namely William John Kennedy – had “pictured” the same burgeoning group.

Andy Warhol in a field of black-eyed Susans with Taylor Mead holding an early "Flowers" canvas as a backdrop in Queens, New York, 1964.
The story goes, that as Kennedy and his wife were preparing to move to Miami, they discovered a long-ago closeted box of old negatives and prints from the 1960s, labeled “Warhol."

During the ‘60s it seems Kennedy, who was living in a cheap pre-trendiness Chelsea loft (with good light), was befriended by the Warhol clan and its rising Art-Stars. For several years he became privy to that secret world. And voila!

The Exhibition, “Before They Were Famous,” presents this documentation. The interest is mostly historical. Featuring Kennedy’s B&W and color photographs – candids and posed – as well as a selection of art from other period creators, it returns one to a seemingly more innocent and light-hearted environment.

Of note was a mirrored piece by the fascinating Ultraviolet – who continues to produce thought-provoking art.

Kennedy studied at Pratt and The School of Visual Arts in the 1950s, and accordingly, this early work represents a beginner’s aesthetic. He soon left this aesthetic genre for the more lucrative career of a successful commercial photographer.

Under the aegis of the wonderful creative director Louis Canales, the Exhibit has now traveled on to additional national locations.
Andy Warhol with "Self Portrait" mounted on homemade sandwich board on fire escape at the Factory, 1964. Andy Warhol holding an unrolled acetate of "Marilyn" in the Factory, 1964.
Robert Indiana holding "Love" at his Coenties Slip studio, 1964. Andy Warhol , Mario Amaya, and Robert Indiana at an early exhibition in New York City, 1963.
Robert Indiana at one of his early exhibitions with his "X5" (1963) in the background.
Claes Oldenburg and Robert Indiana in New York City, 1963.
Robert Indiana and Dorothy Miller in New York City, 1963.
Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana in New York City, 1963.
However New Yorkers will have another opportunity: "Before They Were Famous” is scheduled to be part of Art Hamptons, July 13-15th 2012.

When the exhibit was recently installed on the Lower East Side in NYC I trekked down to view it. Having recently received many Invitations to Galleries and Boutiques located in this area, (where I generally never am,) I decided to walk Rivington Street. I was delightfully surprised to find – especially West of Bowery – a thriving community with every storefront occupied by an up-and-coming designer, a new restaurant, as well as established eateries and talent. This might become a destination!
Photographer William John Kennedy, of "Before They Were Famous." Creative Director Louis Canales.
The wonderful French-born artist Ultra Violet, a popular member of The Factory Scene, here with her Mirror Art.
Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet Discuss The Factory and more on a Panel at Rivington Street Gallery.
Eric Shiner, Director Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, with Publisher Michael E. Huber, Kiwi Arts Group. Elin Lake, Director of O'Toole-Ewald Art Associates, Inc.
The William John Kennedy Limited Edition Collection, as well as additional information, is available from
All Vintage Photographs (c) William John, 1960s
All Additional Photographs (c) Jill Lynne, May 2012