DAVID COHEN, Editor           
       June 2004  

 

Andy Warhol: Red Books

Pace MacGill
32 E 57, 9th fl
New York, NY 10022
212-759-7999


May 13 to July 2, 2004

By BRIAN APPEL

Andy Warhol Paloma Picasso 1973 [from Red Book #227]
Polaroid Type 107 black and white photograph, 4-1/4 x 3-3/8 inches
Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

The "Red Books" offer a front row seat to Andy Warhol's 60's and 70's in what has to be the most intimate glimpse into this art phenomenon's magical life yet. Culled from well over one hundred little red photo books each containing thirteen to twenty-two unique Polaroid Type 107 black and whites or Polacolor 108's exposed between 1969 and 1975, the eleven albums in this show provide 203 intimate, snap-shot-style images of Warhol's fabulously eclectic world of Hollywood movie and TV personalities, rock stars, art celebrities and the international jet set, many never before seen. The brain child of Peter McGill with Tim Hunt and Vincent Freemont from the Andy Warhol Foundation, this installation presents the exciting period after Warhol had recovered from the assassination attempt that almost took his life through the early, brilliant days of his prescient celebrity/art/culture magazine, INTERVIEW.

Unlike the portraits that he shot as sources for his commissioned silkscreen paintings, these images were taken in a more improvised and affectionate way with the subjects being friends at play at "The Factory," including Larry Rivers, Brigid Berlin, and Paloma Picasso; at his summer retreat in Montauk (Anthony and Lee Radziwell, Caroline and John Kennedy Jr., Peter Beard, Paul Morrissey); at the many lunches while overseas (Marisa Berenson, Cheryl Tiegs, Sylvia Miles, Pat and Michael York, Jed Johnson, Joe Dallesandro, Fred Hughes) or just hanging out and responding in kind with the likes of Jack Nicholson, John Lennon and Yoko, Terry Southern, William Burroughs, Bianca Jagger, Mick Jagger, Roger Vadim, Rudolph Nureyev, Joni Mitchell, Lorne Greene, Tony Curtis, Rex Reed, Jan Michael Vincent, Richard Chamberlain, Lucie Arnaz, Rona Barrett, Ann Miller, and David Bowie. Many of the images are signed and dedicated, "To Andy Love", "For Andy, a Great Talent", or "To Andy Peace," while each album is themed around a certain event or a particular personality.

Warhol's special emphasis on the figure, the cut of the clothes, hair styles, jewelry; his attention to all the coding devices that people use to express their personality and rank in society, and his fawning, yet irreverent way with people allowed him to not only get in close to take unposed pictures but also allowed the viewer to study in an almost anthropological way the truly gifted artists of American culture at the time. Anticipating by at least a decade and a half the type of reporting that would become ubiquitous on the news stands with "US", "STAR" and "PEOPLE", and on the TV set with "Entertainment Tonight" and "Extra", Warhol, as usual, anticipated the shift in America's obsessions and fantasies.

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Andy Warhol Mick Jagger 1975 [from Red Book #237]
Polacolor Type 108 photograph, 4-1/4 x 3-3/8 inches
Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

It's important to note that these images were produced prior to Andy's falling in love, circa 1975, with the Olympus point-and-shoot 35mm camera which produced the black and white negatives that could create infinite copies; this show is filled with only the original, one-of-a-kind unique color and black and white Polaroids, some with Andy doodles on the emulsion, that are here and will turn up nowhere else. Warhol collectors get not only brilliantly intimate images of the icons of the day as filtered through the Warhol sensibility (whatever happened to Jan Michael Vincent?) but unique "photographic" images as well. The last time I looked, of the eleven albums for sale, five were on hold, one was sold, one was not available and four were not spoken for.

Steidl, the German art book publisher, has teamed up with the gallery to produce a limited edition run of every image in this exhibition and is available in an exquisite red box with eleven simulated photo albums exactly as the originals for $95. There is also a free (get 'em while you can) mini-album of seven images including a blissed-out pasty-faced, bespectled Andy self-portrait.

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