Monday, July 21, 2014

American Landscapes

An empty lot on 31st Street and 6th Avenue. 3 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, July 21, 2014. It was another really beautiful weekend, in New York. Maybe the best one so far. Sunny, warm but in the low 70s, with an occasional breeze cooling things in the shade.
Showboat (sort of) moves along up river yesterday afternoon about 2 p.m.
Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of Ernest Hemingway, born in Oak Park, Illinois. I was of the generation that couldn’t resist Hemingway. He and Fitzgerald and O’Hara, were giants in 20th century American literature to this boy. The three men were also friends, and admirers of the man’s talent. And he, Hemingway, was, in my opinion, the most influential as a stylist. (Although O’Hara has always been my favorite.) I read the books and was deeply affected by AE Hotchner’s biography of him. He shot himself just three weeks before his 62nd birthday in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961.
Ernest Hemingway, 1939.
Well, we’re late with this one. Real late. Last May 17th. But better late than never, at least in this case. It was on that day, a Saturday, when the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh formally celebrated its 20th Anniversary. 

I’ve written somewhere on these pages (quite some time ago) about my experience of going to one of the very first Andy Warhol shows of New Works back in 1964. It was at the Stable Gallery on East 74th Street. I somehow in memory recall a connection with Leo Castelli and the show although it was not his gallery. However, it was the first time I'd heard his name.

Before that night, I had never heard of either man, so I had no idea what I might expect before I walked into the gallery, which was on the ground floor of a townhouse.
Leo Castelli, Pop art dealer Ivan Karp and artist Andy Warhol, at Castelli's gallery in 1966. Sam Falk/The New York Times/Redux.
It was all Brillo boxes, Campbell Soup boxes and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. Filling the rooms so that you couldn’t enter. They filled the rooms, leaving no room for a human to even stand.

Warhol's Brillo Boxes, 1963.
There probably isn’t a reader among you today who can’t easily picture that, because Andy became like his boxes --  beyond fame and into the collective unconscious. At first sight for this kid, who was never an art historian, who had no interest in Art History, and just wanted to Go Out in New York, it was absurd. I’d seen those likenesses all my life growing up. On the breakfast table, in the kitchen sink and in the cupboard. How could that be Art?

He asked.

I thought it was funny and naturally thought I was pretty smart. I probably still think I’m pretty smart at times, but I also know I don’t give much thought to a lot of things. I sure didn’t know a thing about Andy Warhol and his art when I walked in the door that night. I’d been invited by a girl I knew who was an assistant to an editor at Glamour magazine. The editor was invited to everything going on around town, and anything she didn’t want to do she passed off to my friend. Lucky for us, kids in New York now grown up.

After the reception at the gallery, we went over to a party that Ethel Scull, an early Warhol collector, was hosting in Andy’s loft in the East 40s. I still recall that evening vividly because it was my first look at the New York Art World, something I didn’t know existed until that moment – which was already a cool thing to a young man in a hurry.
Ethel Scull 36 Times, 1963.
Jean Shrimpton, the model, then at her peak, was the star of the evening. Gloria Vanderbilt was there. She was famous, even more famous that Shrimpton. The kid was agog. Photographers were taking pictures of the two women with several artists, none of whom had names recognizable to me: names like Rosenquist, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg. At one point while the mass photographing was going on at one end of the large space, Mrs. Scull stood in the middle of the room and shouted: “I’m paying for this f**king party, when are you going to take a picture of me?” She was pissed off. But no match for Shrimpton or Vanderbilt in this kid’s mind.
Rosenquist and artists at a party at Andy Warhol's studio, The Factory, in New York City, 1964. Pictured from right: Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, British fashion model Jean Shrimpton, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, Claes Oldenburg. Photo: Ken Heyman.
Andy had a very agreeable personality, not remarkable. And so, to me, like his art which I had just seen and left with the impression that it was ordinary (everyday), he seemed to have almost no personality. He was courteous, he was pleasant but otherwise ...  Ha! on me. I should say. It took me quite some time in life to see what I was looking at, and even longer to realize that that this very seemingly unassuming man wearing what looked like a white wig (I thought it was his real hair ...!) would one day be a museum!

I should add, in self-defense: like many others, I came to understand Warhol, who was his art, who lived his art and knew what he was assuming. It was he, more than anyone, who was the influence on my own work as a writer. The media was his art also.
The Andy Warhol Museum.
And it was, this past May 17th at the Andy Warhol Museum, a weekend celebration of the anniversary. Andy, who grew up in Pittsburgh, was a household word, with a museum under the umbrella of four museums known as the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, he was as famous – actually probably more famous, and legendary – than the man whose philanthropy – derived from his genius – built the museums – Andrew Carnegie.

It must have been some weekend. On Saturday night there was a cocktail reception, a tour of the newly installed permanent collection of The Warhol Preview of  Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede exhibition. Then after the black tie dinner, there was a dance party with DJs Andrew Andrew.
George Shaner, Marylou Hacker, Jill Briercheck, Michel Franklin, and Michael Philopena
Then on Sunday, May 18th, Bob Colacello, who is Warhol’s Boswell to the point where it may as well be official, gave a talk and a book signing of his “HOLY TERROR: Andy Warhol Up Close.” Colacello’s career as a writer and biographer began with Warhol and “Interview,” the magazine that changed American magazines and influenced everybody today.

The Warhol Halston Show runs through August 24th.  No doubt people will be coming from all over the world to see it. It’s an American Dream story: local boy goes to New York, makes good and brings New York back to Pittsburgh, to stay. A great place to end up. I’ve been to Pittsburgh, so I know.
Alexander Gilkes and Misha Nonoo
Ann Fu Yung and Gregory Labon
Alan Mur, Cindy Lisica, Jessica Beck, and Gerilyn Huxley
Ben Malka
Craig Jordan and Ellen Jordan
Jamie Schutz and Eric Shiner
David Jensen
Jane Holzer and John Block
Jeff Weimer, Jill Weimer, Anna Ciaccio, and Tim McVay
Debbie Barbarita and Michael Barbarita
Dolly and Curt Ellenberg
Jeffrey Bradford, Norah Lawlor, Susan Jones Block, and John Block
Jill Briercheck
Virginia Nelson, Elizabeth Nelson, and Nancy Burns
John Guehl and Miroya Stabile
John Peterman and Curt Ellenberg
Jim Gruber and Barb Gruber
Katarina Bjoernslev and Flemming Bjoernslev
John Peterman, Donna Peterman, Patrick Moore, and Ann McGuinn
Lee Foster, Alice Snyder, Judy Davenport, and Ron Davenport
Madeline Warhola, Maria Warhola, George Warhola, Marty Warhola, and Abby Warhola
Marc Chazaud, Michele Fabrizi, Christopher Hahn, Ron Booth, and Diana Reid
Maureen Kerr-Burkland, Tim Hunt, Vincent Fremont, Patrick Moore, Robert Becker, and Shelley Dunn Fremont
Melanie Brown, Tim Hunt, and Cathy Lewis Long
Peter Davis, Patrick McGregor, and Stephane Le Duc
Shelly Dunn Fremont, Bob Colacello, and Vito Schnabel

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