April 1, 2011

The Statue (and Stature) of Andy Warhol

Artist Rob Pruitt unveiled his statue of Andy Warhol in Union Square on Wednesday, and it didn't take long for passersby to whip out their cell phones and take pictures of the famous artist. Such is fame. Covered in chrome, Warhol is dressed in jeans and a jacket with tie, the kind of mix of informality and formality that signifies the departure of buttoned-down culture and the dawn of the a more liberated era in the United States. We recognize the figure is Warhol from the chiseled cheekbones, wig, and glasses. In his right hand he's carrying a "medium brown bag," the signifier of the upscale Bloomingdale’s department store, the kind he would use to hold copies of Interview magazine, the oversize splashy publication he started in 1969. Around his neck is the strap for the Polaroid camera, one of the artist's favorite and instantly gratifying media for capturing an image, a necessary component of fame.

It seems fitting, of course, that in the presence of a famous man sporting a film camera, people seem instinctively driven to snap a picture. At the unveiling, members of media organizations brought out their high-end digital cameras, devices mostly confined to the inventor's laboratory during the Warhol 70s. One can presume that people take pictures of whatever sort for the many reasons that Susan Sontag noted in her book On Photography, among them, just to prove that they were there. "Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had," Sontag writes. In this case, that the Warhol statue was seen. Viewers may also feel some connection to the artist, and they take pictures to reaffirm their relationship. What's funny is that this chrome statue, reflecting light back out onto the environs of Broadway and E. 17th Street, is particularly hard to photograph. Fittingly so, because as Warhol scholars have pointed out, he used his camera not only to turn reality into an image but to keep real people at arm's length.




Get ready for a wave of opinions as to whether or not Pruitt's Warhol looks like Andy Warhol. Given the proclivity of many New Yorkers to play games of status, voicing an opinion about the statue's ressemblance to Warhol implies that the speaking subject personally knew Warhol and thus would be in a position to comment. I predict this will be a popular pastime, though making judgments as to the monument's likeness to the artist seems impossibly nineteenth century. Anyway, the statue matches the popular representation of Andy, and that's what matters here. The presentation comes off playfully, of course, because monuments are not normally titled after the first nicknames of the subject. ("The Abe Memorial" in D.C. just doesn't sound right.)

As old-fashioned as judging the statue on its verisimilitude, interpreting the meaning of the statue based solely on the intentions of its creator, Rob Pruitt, would be rather retro, too. Nevertheless, the motivation is a sincere and compelling one. The artist said at the unveiling that Andy Warhol inspired him as a burgeoning artist to move to New York. The monument then stands as a symbol of Warhol's dynamic place in the hearts and minds of aspiring artists. Pruitt's Warhol is pedestrian, in a literal sense and in the best way. The silvery chrome color works well in communicating a calm and accessible energy, a self-reflexivity that also becomes a mirror.

On one hand, he's just a guy, this Andy, on a New York street corner, near a place where he made work for the masses and in collaboration with others, hustling his magazine and making pictures. On the other hand, he looks like he moved to New York City, not from Pittsburgh as it has been assumed, but from his original star home beyond the Milky Way. Many of us make art and work hard on our careers, but Andy did it better than anyone. Inspiring many to pursue similar dreams, he personally obtained a level of artistic intelligence and fame that's hard to reach. It's worth the effort always.

Andy is worthy of this pedestal. Take his picture.


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The Andy Monument by Rob Pruitt is presented by the Public Art Fund. Images by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Read the related post - Capote, Taylor, Warhol, Williams.

3 comments:

Anton Deque said...

Good Morning Teri from a wet England. (The flowers need it.) We saw a fascinating show in London last week at the Barbican (horrid dump, but nice gallery) entitled "Laurie Anderson, Trisha Brown and Gordon Matta-Clark: Pioneers of the Downtown scene, New York 1970s".

Your filter may not welcome a link but the barbican Art Gallery London will be easily found.

Going round the show I kept looking at the 70s era photographs of pre-Banana Republic era SoHo and thinking about your blog and a 'walk'. I have searched names on WotBA, but if I have missed an earlier post please forgive me and point me in the right direction. Otherwise, food for thought? (Matta-Clark was interested in 'Food' ...)

Best Wishes.

Teri Tynes said...

Thanks, Anton, and good morning to you. That's a fascinating idea, and I will look into doing something like that. I know artists who were around then and still live in SoHo/Tribeca. First of all, I should say, in full disclosure, that about 80% of my wardrobe comes from the Banana Republic in SoHo. But I know what you mean. I'm also seeing some of the art momentum creep back into SoHo, so I will look for opportunities to write about the SoHo galleries soon. I'm already planning some of these posts for May.

villa moraira said...

Great post....Especially the pic of the Andy Warhol'd statute....I have no much information about this guy and i only know that he was the famous painter as well as the filmmaker in Amnerica..