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Man Ray, Surrealist Chess Board, 1934.

This is a continuation of from the previous post. Click here for Part I.

Object Making:

One genre of art that the Surrealists took from Dada but adapted to their own uses was the construction of Surrealist objects. The artists combed Parisian flea markets and found various elements that they could combine to make assemblages that were not quite sculpture and not quite functional object. Marcel Duchamp was the forerunner of this idea. He chose ordinary objects and deemed them works of art by putting them within the context of a museum. Later he would begin to combine objects to make more complex ‘Readymades’.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917.

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964.

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964.

Marcel Duchamp, Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?, 1921.

Marcel Duchamp, Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?, 1921.

Duchamp’s friend, American artist Man Ray continued this trend and bridged the gap between Duchamp and the Surrealists through the creation of works like Gift, Object to Be Destroyed, and The Mystery of Isadore Ducasse titled after the real name of the Comte de Lautréamont. These works took functional objects and made them useless but still somehow inviting like some strange object from a dream. From there the other Surrealists began to create their own strange objects in a similar vein.

Man Ray, Gift, 1921.

Man Ray, Gift, 1921.

Man Ray, Indestructible Object or Object To Be Destroyed, 1958 (replica of 1923 original).

Man Ray, Indestructible Object or Object To Be Destroyed, 1958 (replica of 1923 original).

Man Ray, The Mystery of Isidore Ducasse, 1920.

Man Ray, The Mystery of Isidore Ducasse, 1920.

One of the most famous is Meret Oppenheim’s sculpture Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure). This work (unlike many Surrealist objects) seems to have many levels of meaning. It seems like something out of a dream and has become, like Man Ray’s works, a useless object. It is also a sexual pun (sex and the fear of sex were common theme of Surrealist art) having to do with putting one’s mouth onto a hairy vessel.

Meret Oppenheim, Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), 1936.

Meret Oppenheim, Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), 1936.

Another example were the odd works constructed and photographed by Hans Bellmer. Bellmer created built disturbing  dolls of young women which were manipulated in various ways and conveyed themes of voyeurism, molestation, rape, abuse, and even murder. He photographed these dolls in various positions and created some of the most sexually charged and violent of the Surrealists’ works.

Hans Bellmer, Plate from La Poupée, 1936.

Hans Bellmer, Plate from La Poupée, 1936.

Many other Surrealist artists, such as Dali, created objects of these kinds but very few have the importance or staying power of the objects mentioned above. Nonetheless the construction of objects (as well as installations and performance) was an important aspect of the Surrealist movement’s output that would be taken up in a more successful form by later art movements in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Salvador Dali, Lobster Telephone, 1936.

Salvador Dali, Lobster Telephone, 1936.

Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram, 1955.

Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram, 1955.

Photography and Film:

From the late 19th century up until to around 1920, photography had tried to be a form of art on part with others by co-opting the expressiveness of painting, a period of photography known as ‘Pictorialism.’ Then came faster film and more portable cameras. Photographers could now be more inventive and experiment in ways wholly new and not tied to any other minimum.

Leonard Missonne, London, 1899.

Leonard Missonne, London, 1899.

Edward Steichen, Rodin, Le Penseur, 1902.

Edward Steichen, Rodin, Le Penseur, 1902.

The  Constructivists in Russia such as Alexander Rodchenko, and later the New Vision photographers like Lazslo Maholy-Nagy (whose style would become the dominant form of photography during the 1920’s and 30’s) used new light cameras, strange new angles and points of view, sharp focus (Pictorialists had been obsessed with fuzziness that resembled the fuzzy quality of Impressionist painting), and whole new styles of  photo-montage by artists such as the scathing Dadaist political satirist John Heartfield to push photography in totally new directions.

Alexander Rodchenko, Shukhov Tower, 1929.

Alexander Rodchenko, Shukhov Tower,
1929.

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Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, Oscar Schlemmer in Ascona, 1926.

John Heartfield, Hurray the Butter is Gone!, 1935.

John Heartfield, Hurray, The Butter is Gone!, 1935.

Soon photography became not a medium attempting to rise to the level of painting but a medium of art in its own right with the capabilities of experimentation, abstraction, montage, portraiture, and whole new ways of seeing the world. One of the originators of this trend was Man Ray.

Although Man Ray is most famous today for his photography, he wanted to be known for his painting. He only did photography for the money, so he claimed. Though he has some important painted works, the vast majority of Man Ray’s important output was in the form of photography and film. Along with creating whole new grammars in advertising and fashion photography, as well as portraiture, Man Ray invented new forms of the medium in general.

Man Ray, Observatory Time: The Lovers, 1936.

Man Ray, Observatory Time: The Lovers, 1936.

Man Ray for Harper's Bazaar, 1936.

Man Ray for Harper’s Bazaar, 1936.

Man Ray, Arnold Schoenberg, 1927.

Man Ray, Arnold Schoenberg, 1927.

Man Ray, James Joyce, 1922.

Man Ray, James Joyce, 1922.

He invented what he called ‘Rayographs’ (named after the artist) which consisted of placing objects on photographic paper in the darkroom and then exposing the paper leaving odd ghostly white shadows of objects over a black background. He experimented with this technique in film as well. He also invented solarization, the technique of quick exposing full light to the paper during a negative exposure, which creates a kind of halo effect, and played with effects usually thought of as mistakes within photography such as double exposure.

Man Ray, Rayograph, 1922.

Man Ray, Rayograph, 1922.

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Man Ray, Solarized Portrait of Lee Miller, 1929.

In the end he captured some of the greatest images of Surrealist photography including those featuring the notorious Parisian bohemian celebrity Kiki de Montparnasse. His images brought photography into a dreamlike world that had previously not been possible and because of this he was championed by the French Surrealists even before he arrived in Paris and became officially part of the movement.

Man Ray, Kiki, La Violon d`Ingres, 1924.

Man Ray, Kiki, La Violon d`Ingres, 1924.

Man Ray, Les Lames, 1932.

Man Ray, Les Lames, 1932.

Though there were many Surrealists who worked with photography, Man Ray’s works were probably the most important. Nonetheless,  photographers such as Claude Cahun, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and Henri Cartier-Bresson were embraced by the Surrealists without really being members but doing work tangentially related in subject matter, style, and theme. The strangeness of their imagery, either constructed or captured, aligned with what the Surrealists saw as either he construction of a dreamlike image in the vein of Surrealist painting or moments of the irrational unconscious making itself known to ordinary people in the split second the photograph was taken, what Cartier-Bresson referred to as ‘the decisive moment.’

Claude Cahun, Self-Portrait, Don't Kiss Me, 1927.

Claude Cahun, Self-Portrait, Don’t Kiss Me, 1927.

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo, The Big Fish Eats The Little One, 1932.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Derriere La Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932.

Man Ray was also an innovator in film along with other important experimental Surrealistl filmmakers. These filmmakers came were heavily interested by developments in film and animation of contemporary practitioners such as Dziga Vertov, Sergei Eisenstein, the German Expressionists, early silent Hollywood films, the abstract animation of Viking Eggeling, and Dadaist performance and film such as those made by Hans Richter. Probably the most famous of these Surrealist filmmakers were Man Ray, René Claire, Jean Coctaeu, Luis Buñuel, and Salvador Dali.

Hans Richter:

Man Ray:

René Clair: 

Jean Cocteau:

Man Ray and Salvador Dali.

Man Ray and Salvador Dali.

Buñuel and Dali are perhaps the most infamous, at least during this period as they created one of the most controversial short films of all time, Un Chien Andelou, known most critically for its sexual explicitness, strong imagery (ants coming out of a hand comes to mind), and its violence including a scene with a women getting apparently getting her eye slashed with a razor. The film was deeply surrealist in its use of dream pacing and imagery and would in some sense dictate the way experimental film and dream sequences would be filmed in the ensuing decades from Hitchcock to The Sopranos.

Meanwhile, although Dali moved away from film, Buñuel began to make feature length Surrealist parables about bourgeois society and the crisis of identity within capitalist catholic society up until his death in 1983.

Un Chien Andalou:

Hitchcock’s dream sequence in Spellbound designed by Salvador Dali:

A dream sequence from The Sopranos:

Buñuel’s feature-legnth Surrealist masterpiece, The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Decline and Legacy:

Like most of the art movements of the twentieth century, Surrealism had a short shelf-life petering out by the 1960’s. It began to decline because mainly of World War II. Many of the artists came to the United States as a result of the fall of France in 1940 and were influential on American artists, notably Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and filmmakers such as Maya Deren. However, these artists were (besides Deren) only tangentially interested in Surrealism and more interested in abstraction and personal expression. Although they used Surrealist methods for untapping the unconscious such as chance, their art was not cerebral like Surrealism but visual and about the experience of looking.

Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock's Comb, 1944.

Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1944.

Robert Mother, Elegy to The Spanish Republic, 1971.

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to The Spanish Republic, 1971.

Jackson Pollock, Number 11 (Blue Poles), 1951.

Jackson Pollock, Number 11 (Blue Poles), 1951.

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Still from Maya Deren’s dreamy experimental film, Meshes Of The Afternoon, 1941.

Surrealism did become influential in another way. It was used by advertising, fashion, and movies in a form known as ‘pop surrealism.’ It became more important to applied art, entertainment, and commerce than it did a revolutionary movement of freedom. All trappings of its communist leanings went out the window when money entered the picture.

An example of 'Pop Surrealism,' Andy Warhol on the cover of Esquire, 1969.

An example of ‘Pop Surrealism,’ Andy Warhol on the cover of Esquire, 1969.

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Surrealist-influenced fashion, 1930’s.

The most well-known Surrealist, Salvador Dali, became more famous as a celebrity figure and personality (not to mention buffoon in an emperor has no clothes sort of way) than as a serious artist. Later cerebral and literary art movements such as Neo-Dada, Pop Art, and Conceptualism became  much more attracted to the original Dadaists during WWI and the 20’S, particularly Duchamp, than they were with Surrealism, although Conceptual artists in particular shared Surrealist’s interest in language.

Surrealism’s fate was sealed by two factors; the rise of the New York art scene during the war and the state of the French Avant-Garde after it. With Abstract Expressionism, the first art movement in America to catch on as truly revolutionary and globally significant, along with a new booming economy, modern art institutions (of which there were few in Europe), and a strong stream of art patronage, the center of world art domination moved from Paris to New York where it would stay until at least the end of the century.

Meanwhile, when they returned to Europe, the Surrealists no longer had the moral authority they had once commanded among elements of the leftist avant-garde. Stalinist and Troskyite notions of communism had been sidelined in favor of an even more unfathomable attraction to Maoism among French communists. The Existentialists and artists like Picasso and Alberto Giacometti had stayed in France during those years and had resisted the Nazi occupiers. By the time the war had ended the Surrealists were no longer able to lead the way as a revolutionary artists, writers, and thinkers in the way that Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubeffet, or even Picasso could. Their style had become stale.

A work of Picasso's during the German occupation of France, Still Life with Blood Sausage, 1941.

A work of Picasso’s painted during the Nazi occupation of France, Still Life with Blood Sausage, 1941.

Alberto Giacometti surrounded by his Existentialist-inspired works, 1951.

Alberto Giacometti surrounded by his Existentialist-inspired works, 1951.

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Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beavoir.

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Albert Camus.

The Paris art scene, severely weakened by the war, continued to have innovative movements such as Art Brut and the Nouvelle Réalistes but Surrealism was the last movement in France that dominated the art world. Breton continued to influence young artists in the Surrealist vein particularly in South America until his death in 1966 but it was really artists like Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaists who would have a greater influence on the postwar Avant-Garde. Art in France and later in the U.S. became particularly influenced by philosophical fads such as Existentialism, Buddhism, Phenomenology, and the media theories of Marshall McLuhan that began to dominate the intellectual scene during the 1950’s and 60’s.

A work by Art Brut founder Jean Dubuffet, Limbour as a Crustacean, 1946.

A work by Art Brut founder Jean Dubuffet, Limbour as a Crustacean, 1946.

Yves Klein, L'accord bleu (RE 10), 1960.

Founder of the Nouvelle Realiste movement Yves Klein, L’accord bleu (RE 10), 1960.

Nonetheless, we shouldn’t totally write off Surrealism’s accomplishments. The idea of investigating dreams and other elements of the unconscious was an important precedent that many artists who were interested in deep recesses of the mind would continue to be attracted. Even today, one of the most popular works of art at The Museum of Modern Art is a work by Salvador Dali. Surrealism continues to attract us because the unconscious is a universal that, if we decide to tap it for creativity, can elucidate beautiful, disturbing, and deeply fascinating things.

Akira Kurosawa, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas during the production of KAGEMUSHA, 1980.

One of my first posts for this blog was on visionary director Akira Kurosawa, master of the Samurai epic and the genius behind such films as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Ran. He is particularly notable for his groundbreaking use of wide shots and telephoto lenses, his interest in extreme weather and strong sometimes overwrought performances. More than that, it was his signature style that has influenced directors from Altman, to Coppola, to Spielberg and Lucas. He was my favorite filmmaker for a long time. In high school and college, I collected as many of his films on DVD as I could and watched them over and over. He truly was a master of the medium and should not be overlooked in terms of his importance to the history of film both technically and for the many classics he was responsible for.

One of Kurosawa’s most important contributions to modern filmmaking was his use of motion. This extended to the movement of the actors, of the camera, and to his use of editing. It is important to remember that none of this is ever accidental (or usually shouldn’t be anyway). Filmmaker and editor Tony Zhou has an interest series of videos on the way filmmakers tell a story through visuals called ‘Every Frame A Painting.’ His most recent video is on Kurosawa and goes into interesting detail about how Kurosawa used motion as an important storytelling tool.

Zhou explains how Kurosawa, through all of his 30+ films, used the motion to create visual interest, point to characterization and plot, and create a seamless flow. He discusses how Kurosawa used elements such as the power of nature, groups, unrealistic and exaggerated blocking, fluid camera motion, telling a story through a single shot, and cutting on movement to create visual excitement and to help guide the viewer through the story without having to use endless exposition. He also explains how directors could improve their films by following Kurosawa’s example.

I am thankful to Zhou for pointing out how motion is so skillfully used in Kurosawa’s films that I never really noticed it before. I think that’s a real gift: to be able to be so adept at some important element of your creative endeavor that it slips by unseen. Zhou’s breakdown of Kurosawa’s use of motion is a really strong demonstration in craft and I think creative people in many disciplines may find it useful to their own art forms.

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Orson Welles has a varied reputation depending on who you ask. He lived many lives. Some cite his egotism and success as a Broadway theater director during the Depression. Others mention his War of the Worlds broadcast which, according to legend, scared the living daylights out of the American people and convinced many of them they were being attacked by aliens. Some cite his genius directorship of the ‘greatest movie ever made,’ Citizen Kane. Finally, others mention his uneven and difficult later years; his battles with studios, his ads for California wine and weight gain, and his lack of finished projects.

All these Welles existed.  They are all a part of the story, although somewhat skewed by outside perspectives. Nonetheless, we can learn a lot about the creative process from all of the different versions of Welles throughout his career.

Here are 4 things we can learn from Orson Welles’ life and work:

Orson_Welles-Citizen_Kane1

1.  Learn by doing

Welles always believed that if you could express yourself in one art form you could likely do so in several. With this ethos he became an actor, a theater director, a radio performer, and finally a director.

Welles started his career in a Dublin theater by lying about his age and experience, telling those in charge that he had worked on Broadway. It is up for debate whether they believed him or not but his sheer confidence and potential talent led them to hire him for the job either way. He tumbled into the acting profession and learned how to act by doing it.

When Welles got an unprecedented contract to write, direct, produce, and star in Citizen Kane, he had never directed a film and knew nothing about how to make a movie. He hired Gregg Toland, a veteran director of photography in the film industry who was told Welles that he was tired of working with people who knew (or thought they knew) the limits of the medium and didn’t want to push it in new directions. The idea of working with someone as fresh and inventive as Welles attracted him.

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The first day of shooting, Welles went around fixing all the lights because he thought it was the job of the director. Little did he know that this was actually Tolland’s job. However, Tolland quietly balanced the lights and told everybody on set not to tell Welles and to let him continue. Welles set the lights for several days before someone informed him. When Tolland found out, he became quite angry because he wanted Welles to do things his own way.

Welles went on to wildly experiment in order to create a whole new kind of cinematic experience. He used lighting in inventive ways, shot certain scenes from wholly different angles and points of view, brought in montage techniques which had been used rarely in Hollywood before, and also used radio techniques of overlapping dialogue in new ways.

In the end, he had created what many think of as the greatest movie ever made. He always claimed that he was interested in jumping straight into things because this was the best way to learn.

orson-welles-directing on CBS

2.  Take Risks

Welles was most definitely a risk-taker. One need only look through his catalog to realize that he was constantly pushing the limits of whatever he was working on. Early on in the theater, he put on an all-black production of Macbeth. This was during the depression, in a time of racial segregation and institutionalized racism. Not only was Welles reacting against these elements (he was a dyed in the wool liberal) but also against the traditions of Shakespeare performances. But this risk ended up paying off and is remembered as a landmark in the history of Shakespearean productions.

Other times his attempts to push boundaries backfired, at least at first. The infamous War of the Worlds broadcast was reported at the time and later to have caused a national panic because Welles had produced a radio drama about aliens attacking her with convincing news bulletins that reportedly tricked people into believing in their veracity.

The reality of this oft-repeated claim has been recently challenged as a-historical but nonetheless Welles did get in trouble for the daringness of the broadcast and its effect. Since, as he has often mentioned himself, it was a revolutionary moment in the history of media, it would not have happened if Welles had not taken a leap of faith to create something truly daring.

Citizen Kane drew a lot of attention, not only from those who were quick to praise the film but from those who became the enemies of Welles. He long refused to admit that the figure of Kane was based on the controversial newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. But many of Hearst’s associates saw the connection all too clearly and tried to find all manners of methods to stop release of the film and blacken Welles’ reputation, going so far as to try to have the negative destroyed and frame Welles by trapping him in a hotel room with an underage girl. In the end their plots failed but Welles’ reputation with the studios was badly damaged nonetheless. He would never again have such ease in making a film as he did on Citizen Kane.

3.  Have a vision and don’t compromise it

One fact that is often cited about Welles was just how difficult and hard-headed he could be. He had a reputation for yelling at actors and throwing tantrums on set and causing major headaches for the studio heads.  It is almost not possible to imagine Welles any other way. The difficulty of his personality, which he later regretted using with such ferocity, was as central to his personality as his genius because in many instances it facilitated his ability to create the kinds of work he was eventually most famous and known for.

Not only that but it allowed him to get his projects done in the ways he envisioned them. When one thinks of films such as Citizen Kane, The Trial, The Chimes at Midnight, Touch of Evil, The Trial, or F for Fake, it is impossible to think of those films being directed by any other person other than Welles. Even though these films are disparate in many ways, they all share his undeniable touch.

Welles had very strong specific visions which he want to share with his audience in a precise and specific way. In order to make sure that happened he needed to go to the mattresses with the studios, his actors and crew, and the film itself. Many times this too backfired and studio heads cut versions of two of his films (The Lady from Shanghai and The Magnificent Ambersons) without his permission and behind his back. He never would forgive them for this and was never able to get the kind of control he had on Kane again. Nonetheless, he was still able to make some visionary films and it was only because he fought against those who would compromise his vision so consistently and so fiercely.

4.  Never Give Up

There was of course a downside to Welles’s incredible ambition and difficulty as a person. He made a lot of enemies which contributed to problems especially later in his career.  The third act of Welles life has often been talked about in terms of failure, at least partial failure. Although he made some of his most classic films during this time, many look at Welles’ final twenty or so years with pity or even derision. This seems to me to be entirely the wrong impression.

Although it is true that Welles had much less success in the later part of his life spending much of his time in bit parts, doing narration, and even performing in commercials, he never gave up trying make new film projects. He spent much of his time hustling in order to get the next film made. That kind of tenacity was what helped him to create some of his greatest projects. In the end, we should praise Orson Welles for the great work he did and see his strength of character in the face of adversity as an example to follow.

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Louis-ck

Comedian, writer, filmmaker, TV show creator, and actor Louis C.K. has been getting an increasing amount of attention lately and for very good reason. He is incredibly hard working and talented. Not only is he a comedian who sells out practically everywhere he is booked and appears regularly on late night talk shows like the Tonight Show, Late Night, and Conan, he has a popular television show, simply called Louie that he has complete control over, has appeared in award winning films by directors such as Woody Allen and David O. Russell, and has revolutionized the way comedians distribute their content and sell tickets. Therefore it is easy to say that he has a lot to teach creative professionals who want to achieve the same levels of success and freedom that he has had.

Here are six things that we can learn from Louis C.K.:

  1. Skill only comes with time and experience

Like many arts, comedy is not something that you can’t be great at right away. A good comparison would be music. You need to take years to become a virtuoso musician. Years of practicing, of performing in front of audience, of honing your style and your technique. Louis says that comedy takes at least ten years of being really bad, of building the skills, of generating the jokes to become any good. You have to fail on stage, a lot in order to know the difference between good and bad material. And to become great takes even more time. You also need to constantly be watching other comedians and learning from them. He says that he was constantly doing this when he started out allowing him to think critically about the artform.

Part of the knowledge that he had to be great came from having kids. He now had no excuse in not taking his work seriously. He now had to make plans and see them through, and stop being immature. Additionally to be able to make observations about life, you’ve had to live it. To really get good, you need to have more and more experiences that you can draw on for comedy. This only really comes from getting older. As you get better and better you are able to understand the audience better, predict how they’re going to react to certain things, and basically (as Louis puts it) play them like an instrument.

  1. Get outside your comfort zone:

Louis C.K. does not believe in reusing material because he thinks its lazy. Part of this is because he says his material gets better as he gets older and since he is always talking about his own life, much of his old material is no longer relevant.  He also wants to give himself a challenge, a reason to be excited about his work and wants to create a better show every time he gets up on stage. He also thinks it’s unfair to the audience to keep reusing the same material over and over. They likely won’t come see him again.

Therefore, he comes up with a new hour of comedy every year. He goes to small clubs and tries out jokes on a smaller audience. He is then able to carefully craft his specials and theater shows so that only the best jokes are included. He compares the process to how Samurai swords were constructed. When making these swords, craftsmen would bang and fold the metal as it was being made until they achieved a flawless surface. Louis does a similar thing with his jokes by taking his best joke, often called the ‘closer’ in comedy because it comes at the end, and moving it to the beginning. This means he is now putting himself at a disadvantage in that he has to create an even better joke to fill the void left by the now absent closer. He keeps doing this over and over. The goal is to have an entire set of just closing bits, of material that is so strong that any of it could stand on its own.

His argument for why he does it is that feeling uncomfortable allows him to learn things. He is able to figure out better ways to work through his material or to push his television show in new directions by doing things that haven’t been done before and by forcing himself into a corner so that he was to find a creative way out.

  1. Use failure to your advantage:

Louis is not afraid to fail. In fact, as he Is quick to admit, he has failed many times. He has had his comedy career come crashing to a halt when the comedy boom ended at the end of the 1980’s and many comedy clubs started closing. He has seen the critical and commercial failure of one of his major pet projects, the film Pootie Tang. And he saw his first major attempt at a television show, Lucky Louie, get cancelled by HBO. But through all of it he has persevered. He realized after the failure of Pootie Tang that he felt bad for a little while but eventually he got over it and was able to move on and use the what he learned in the experience to his advantage.

  1. Don’t worry about what is deemed acceptable:

There are many forms of comedy and some are safer than others. Louis likes going to and past the edge of acceptability. This is where he feels he gets some of his best comedy. He thinks it is good to take people to a place where they are often uncomfortable. He likes the excitement of the high stakes that come in when you bring in difficult or bleak material. He figures that if you say one thing that will make the audience uncomfortable, you have to work to get them back. As a comic, at least a veteran comic, you control the future. He likes that challenge.

  1. Push the boundaries of what is possible:

Apart from being a great comedian, Louis C.K. is also a clever businessman. He has revolutionized the way that comedy is distributed to audiences by making tickets available on his website directly for a reduced price, selling his specials there as well for $5 apiece and asking people to pay the small fee instead of stealing. Not only has he made a nice profit from this experiment, he has allowed his fans to see his comedy more easily, either live or over the internet.

He also has a seemingly unbelievable amount of freedom on his FX TV show Louie. Not only has the show been critically acclaimed and loved by fans, as its creator, he has basically complete control over the show: over the stories he gets to tell, the jokes that go on the air, the people he gets to cast, the editing. He doesn’t turn in scripts or take notes from producers. This is unheard of in television. It is partially because his show is so cheap to produce and it is on at a time when cheaper advertisers, who are less sensitive to content, are paying for spots.

He is quick to stress that just because he has all this freedom doesn’t mean his employers don’t have a right to shut him down or reject and episode if they don’t like it. But he has been lucky enough to have bosses who think he’s talented and trust him. Before his most recent season, he took a year off to devote extra time to making the show as good as possible.

He has also done some unorthodox things on the show including switching the actors who play his daughters mid episode without anybody noticing, introducing characters and then not bringing them back for several seasons or at all, and using the same actress to play different characters. He’s not afraid to get surreal, mixing fantasy sequences with realistic action. He is willing to play with time and duration in ways that are unusual in television. For instance, while the first few seasons relied on a convention of self-contained episodes, the last couple have brought in multiple episode story arcs and are setting up longer narratives. He says that he has done this because the way people watch TV has changed, with many people waiting until a whole season has been broadcast and watching episodes all at once. This means the pacing that was traditional to television is no longer really relevant.

  1. Be Modest:

If you’ve ever watched or heard an interview with Louis C.K. than you would know he is probably the most modest man in show business. He doesn’t like it when people compliment him too much. He also doesn’t like the idea of fame. While he performs what he sees as a kind of art, he doesn’t see himself as an artist. He also sees himself as a regular guy and not as a celebrity. When he is out and about with his daughters he wants to be left alone. He doesn’t like taking pictures with fans but not because of any malice. He sees it as an intrusion and would rather talk to fans on a one-to-one level.

He also doesn’t like wearing suits. There are many occasions, such as performing at Carnegie Hall or on David Letterman where there is a certain level of dress code is expected. But Louis has never felt comfortable in a suit and doesn’t think it’s really him. Therefore he avoids at all costs doing so. In a recent episode of his shown, he lampoons his own modest stance on this issue but turning up to a gala in the Hamptons in a black t-shirt and jeans, his usual uniform, to the annoyance of Jerry Seinfeld, who he is opening for.

Louis C.K. is an unusual and important figure in modern entertainment. Some might call him a genius, although he is unlikely to appreciate that much and more likely to be embarrassed. It may be better to call him a lucky guy with some talent and perseverance who has been given some amazing opportunities and taken them head on. Thanks to him the landscape of comedy and television has changed forever, and is most definitely better off.

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Recently, I decided to revisit one of the books that made me want to write about creativity, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I wasn’t disappointed.

Daily Rituals delves into the process and lifestyles of many important figures, not just in visual art but in literature, music, choreography, film and even philosophy. The book takes each of these artists and thinkers and then goes into great and fascinating detail about their daily routines: how they structured their day, when and how they ate, worked, and played.  As the author puts it, “All of them found the time to get their work done. But there is an infinite variation on how they structured their lives to do so.” The book proves that there are many ways to success in creative disciplines and is captivating as well as inspiring.

When to Work and How Much:

While it is the variety of the experiences recounted in Daily Rituals that really engages the reader, there are some practices that these creators have in common. The majority of them started work in the morning, mostly between the hours of eight and ten and then worked until lunch. W.H. Auden went so far to state that “Only the Hitlers of the world work at night; no honest artist does.” The novelist Günter Grass also believes only writing during the day was the only way to go because as he says “it comes too easily.”

W.H. Auden

W.H. Auden

This is not true of everyone of course. The short story writer Ann Beattie can only write between the hours of 12:00 and 3:00 AM. The playwright Tom Stoppard says, “I never work in the mornings unless I’m in real trouble.”

There is of course another issue that many creative people have to deal with. How do you do your thing if you also have a 9-5 job? Toni Morrison, for instance, worked at first in the evening after each day at her job in publishing, but had switched to early mornings by the 1990’s saying she lacked intelligence and wit after dark.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

The poet Wallace Stevens balanced a successful career as an insurance lawyer with his poetry, which he would compose while walking to work. Currey quotes him as saying that a job, “introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life. I am just as free as I want to be and have nothing to worry about money.”

One aspect of routine that varies drastically among all the figures in this book is how much to work. Some kept long hours, like Voltaire who worked eighteen to twenty hours a day or Karl Marx who labored from when the British Library opened in the morning at 9:00 until well into the night.  Most worked between two and five hours a day, the limit it seems for the intensity it takes to concentrate on creative projects. Gertrude Stein put in as little as ½ hour, explaining that even that little work every day would add up to a lot after a year.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

The Importance of Routine:

One writer who really understood the value of routine was the German author Thomas Mann. As Currey reports it, he was up and ready to go by 9:00 AM. Then he would steal himself away in his study, completely shutting himself off from everyone including his family. He would limit himself to composing his fiction until noon which would force him to take his work slowly and carefully. Then he could attend to other matters in the afternoon. This kind of regimented schedule worked well for him and allowed him to progress at a relatively consistent rate.

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Thomas Mann

Others were able to get work done despite their relaxed attitudes. Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, reportedly lay in bed and chatted with his mother well into the morning. His writing took him a long time as well. During the writing of Bovary, Flaubert only wrote two pages week, taking nearly five years to complete the novel.

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

The Urge to Create:

Patricia Highsmith, author of such classics as The Talented Mr. Ripley (one of my favorite film adaptations) and Strangers on a Train, saw writing as a compulsion. Not working led to unhappiness.“’There is no real life except for working, that is to say in the imagination,’ she wrote in her journal. Fortunately she was rarely short of inspiration; she had ideas, she said, like rats have orgasms.”

Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith wasn’t the only person to need to work to be happy. As Freud put it, “I cannot imagine life without work as really comfortable.” But he also understood the value of relaxation. He would take three month vacations with his family during the summer.

Environment and Distraction:

Freud’s onetime friend and later bitter rival in the psychoanalytic community, Carl Jung, also is described by Currey as being a ‘workaholic.’ At the same time Jung demanded something else that is important for the creative disposition: the right kind of environment. He built a home for himself called Bollingen Tower, which contained only the essentials needed to do his work: no electricity, phone, or even running water. This allowed Jung a simple existence, one that he could fill with his psychoanalytic writing, but also with physical labor which he loved.

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Carl Jung

Not everyone can work in a conventional environment. As Anne Rice mentions in the book, for some limiting distractions is essential if you want to get anything done. For others, like illustrator and author Maira Kalman, just the ‘right amount’ of distraction, cleaning, ironing, taking a walk.

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Anne Rice

It is interesting to note just how many creative people discussed in this book took long walks and napped during the day. Apparently these activities, considered time-wasting and frivolous by many over-worked Americans, are quite beneficial to the creative mind.

The Struggle for Discipline:

The urge to create, that drive to express is something that comes up again and again in Currey’s book. Not everybody works that way however. Many struggle to find the work ethic to keep a routine going. Sometimes attempts at a rigid and defined discipline could falter even for the most productive of figures. Take the case of Benjamin Franklin who worked out a very calculated and considered routine for himself.

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Benjamin Franklin

“The plan worked, up to a point. After following the course several times in a row, he found it necessary to go through the course just one in a year, and then one every few years. But the virtue of order—‘Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time”—appears to have eluded his grasp.”

What’s great about this passage is that it acknowledges a struggle that many of us have with creative projects: that of staying focused, staying on track, seeing our work through. Many of us (myself included) are great at coming up with a plan but when it comes to accomplishing our goals we have trouble. We falter, sometimes we even fail.

Another great example of someone who constantly struggled with a consistent work ethic was William James. The philosopher who was obsessed with the ideas of routines and believed, whole-heartedly, that one needed to regiment time, focus, and be decisive, was an epic procrastinator.

As Currey relates, “James kept no regular schedule, was chronically indecisive and lived a disorderly, unsettled life.” He was obsessed with routines but was not able to enact the sorts of routines he recommended to others.

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William James

Another famous example of a terminal procrastinator was the creator of the first English dictionary, Samuel Johnson. He had a great deal of difficulty rising in the morning and mostly worked at night after returning from taverns.

Bad Habits:

Rituals can be detrimental as well as beneficial in life as in creation. A constant theme in the book is that of the ritual of drink. It is something that has been tied to both the act of creativity and the social life of creative types for centuries. Sometimes it is a positive force. Some writers, for instance, see it as a way to loosen up their minds, to get ideas flowing. But it can be taken too far.

The Post-Impressionist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec basically drank himself to death. His hard-hitting lifestyle which allowed him to depict the Paris cabarets and brothels which he loved, along with the late nights and constant alcohol consumption that came with them, would kill him at the age of only thirty-six.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Fiction writer John Cheever too had a drinking problem managing to hide it for much of his adult life, eventually spending more time drinking than writing. He also, during the early part of his career, had quite a famously unconventional way of working, getting dressed like he was going to the office and then riding the apartment elevator down to the basement, undressing, and beginning to write.

Jackson Pollock too was notorious for his self-destructive habits, including drinking, that would eventually kill him in a drunk driving accident. It is interesting then that his most productive period occurred when he moved with his wife to Long Island, far from the New York alcohol-soaked art world.

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Jackson Pollock

Why Creatives Have Routines:

There are many myths about creative people: that they are undisciplined, that what they do takes little skill or effort, that they are lazy. The most important success of Currey’s book is to prove that these are indeed untrue. Though many creative people have unconventional lifestyles, most need a strong work ethic to get anything done at all. Writing a book, painting, directing a film: these all take a great deal of work and so one needs to manage ones time wisely.

Most creatives eat, sleep, work, and play at regular times. Many work during the day. Some who live crazy bohemian lifestyles burn out quickly and get little done, and many of those who have difficulty with creative discipline struggle in order enact routines in their life and work. But even those things that may seem like procrastination can be helpful. Naps, walks, and drinking that may come across as luxuries to some are often beneficial in creative work.

In the end,  Daily Rituals is essential reading for anyone who is interested in creativity. It is an revealing and enlightening account of what it is to be a creative person and can act as a kind of blueprint for creatives to get some stability in order to do their best work.

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Philip_Seymour_Hoffman_2011Philip Seymour Hoffman died earlier this month of a heroin overdose. Many critics have said that he was perhaps the greatest actor of his generation and one of the greatest who ever lived. What made Hoffman so beloved by so many was his mixture of pure skill, drive to work, and humility. The ambition of his acting and his ability to rise to any occasion allowed him to become famous but also are evidence of his ability to submerge himself deep into a role.  It was his honesty in his many performances that set them apart and made them memorable.

Hoffman was able to totally inhabit characters, to bring them to life in such a vivid and totally realized way that we forgot who we were watching, a skill that few of his more famous co-stars were ever quite able to achieve. He has often been referred to as a ‘character actor,’ an American term of art meaning an actor who does small bit parts but makes those characters three-dimensional and real.

Some of his best performances on screen (Capote, Happiness, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master, Doubt, Charlie Wilson’s War, Almost Famous, and many more) and in theater (Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Othello and more) demonstrate his great ability brining his characters to life. He appeared in over 60 films and numerous stage productions. He also directed a film and several theatrical productions.

He never understood why he was designated the character actor label. Maybe it was because he didn’t look like a traditional star, messy-haired, overweight, and usually in frumpy casual clothes. Appearance was never very important to him. He just wanted to act, plain and simple.

Hoffman often noted that one of his greatest motivators was fear. He said that acting was ‘a lot of terror,’ but that it was also a thrill. When playing characters such as Iago from Othello or Willy Loman from Death of A Salesmen, roles that were each very demanding, he realized he needed to let go of the final outcome, to embrace the fear and ride it out. He would often work himself into a state of distress and said that when he wasn’t doing a good job he was an extremely unpleasant person to be around. At the same time he knew that on days when he did do well that it couldn’t get any better.

During the years Hoffman was sober, work became his drug. He even called it an opiate. Like many actors, his approach to acting in films and in theater was vastly different. Since theater relies on a constant level of performance and since each performance is a test unto itself, Hoffman knew he needed to always be on his toes. All that mattered was what was happening right then. Past successes or failures were irrelevant. For this reason, he found theater very difficult and often struggled with it.

Trust was very important to Hoffman. He believed that it was crucial to work in conjunction with other actors and the director in order to create a performance that added to the overall ensemble. For him, you needed to be giving. You needed to create a bond between yourself, your fellow actors, and the audience. He felt very lucky that he was able to work on his various projects because it allowed him the chance to work with talented people. He liked it when his fellow actors gave him a kind of acceptance and support which allowed him to act from the place of openness that was most beneficial to the performance.

Preparation was hugely important to Hoffman’s process and was often unrelenting. He went to a place where he could feel as vulnerable as possible to allow the character to come out of that openness. Expunging as much of one’s own baggage as possible was very important. As he put it, “You don’t want to dirty the waters too much with your own crap.” Nonetheless, it is impossible to be a totally empty vessel. One cannot totally avoid one’s self showing up in the work, both the best and the worst qualities.

Hoffman’s approach to creating characters involved delving deep inside them trying to find what he called their ‘engine, or their prime motivation. Figuring out what drove them emotionally and what their motivations were allowed all the other elements of their personality to fall into place. He knew that he couldn’t always find the engine but he was constantly searching for it.

Hoffman used himself as a means of comparison with the character. He thought about similarities and differences from himself, how he and the character would react differently in different situations because of their particular drives. He might imitate the character to a certain extent, Truman Capote for instance, but imitation was the least important part of the performance. Motivation was the foundation with which he built the character from the ground up.

He never cared about making a character likable because it was untruthful.  Instead, it was important to create an honest portrayal, to feel the person depicted as three-dimensional and fully realized. Even if we could not identify with them we could at least understand them and imagine them to be real. We all are complicated and that complexity was what made Hoffman’s acting seem so honest.

He wanted to create risks for himself and give himself the room to accept failure if it came. This extended to his overall life. He stated that he always had to give up plans, that life was too unpredictable for that kind of thinking. He often worried that his career was going to be over soon, that he was a fraud.

Hoffman’s own self-doubt was often a problem but he tried to use it to his advantage, incorporating it into his acting with the same searching quality he gave to his preparation. He realized that in life you can’t control things, no matter how hard you try. Therefore, he wanted to work in an out of control state that had a structure around it. You could push the performance in pretty much any direction but at the same time you needed a basic plan which you could follow.

His performances were organic and often ignored the conventions of film acting. He would often play away from the camera when acting, not worrying about finding the light or making his marks. He was able to use his extreme sensitivity to tune his performance to just the right note at any moment in a scene.

His advice to young actors was to act, wherever and whenever possible. Go on auditions constantly. Accept anything that is thrown at you. When you act, act as well as you can because then the impression you give will be unforgettable. He said that you needed to be focused and strong-willed. Actors should pursue difficulty. The easy path is not worth following.

Hoffman’s greatest gift was his ability to give us a huge quantity of work to enjoy of the best quality he could. He proved that it was possible to not sacrifice one for the other. His death is a tragic loss. He could have contributed so much more amazing work to the history of film and theater. Despite his obvious weaknesses as a person, Hoffman showed an incredible work ethic and proved what someone who totally devotes themselves to their craft can do. For that reason, he is an extremely creative and skilled individual who other creative people should seek to emulate.

 

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Andy Warhol was an extremely complex figure, with a lot depth in his work and personality, despite his own assertion that all that he was, was on the surface. The creation of the persona and brand ‘Andy Warhol’ was probably his most successful work of art, at least commercially. It is hard to know how much of this was real and how much was constructed. What we can gather about Warhol was that he was an incredibly hard worker and was (at least during his first decade of production) redefining what was possible in a number of different artistic modes.

Born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol quickly developed an interest in visual art. He became a promising magazine and advertising illustrator and by the early 1960’s had began working as a fine artist. His early famous works: hand-painted Campbell soup cans, screen-printed Coca-Cola bottles and Marilyn Monroes among other classics were shocking at the time along with his darker images of car crashes, civil rights demonstrations, and electric chairs.

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Cambell’s Soup Cans, 1962.

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Untitled, (image of Marilyn Monroe), 1967.

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Double Jackie, 1964.

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Electric Chair, 1963.

This new Pop Art by artists like Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, James Rosenquist and others was seen as anathema to the art establishment of critics and dealers at the time. This was the tail-end of the New York renaissance of Abstract Expressionism when totally abstract painting was king and artists like Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and Willem De Kooning were still in favor. The idea that paintings and sculptures of consumer goods, advertisements, and celebrities could be considered art was very challenging at the time. Andy was one of the main catalysts for what would become an art establishment acceptance of Pop Art.

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Willem De Kooning, Gotham News, 1955.

Pop Art would make Warhol famous. He raised consumer goods and celebrities to the level of high art, of icons. At the same time, he liked the way commercial  goods and celebrities were products of a kind of manufactured process and imitated this proliferation of images through repetition in his own. His art was very democratic unlike the conscious elitism of the Abstract Experssionists.

Warhol once said,

You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

Warhol played into the very fame and banality that he depicted in his paintings. He was a media darling. In taking a cue from his hero, Salvador Dali, he developed a persona that would allow him to become famous himself. Instead of fighting against his natural shyness and strange appearance, normally bad qualities for acquiring fame, he heightened them and made them larger than life. He became deadpan and impossibly cool in interviews.

The air of superficiality Warhol demonstrated led to a sense that he was hiding something, to an air of mystery which drew people to him. They would project their idea of ‘Andy Warhol’ onto him and he was all but too happy to allow them to do so. He said he wanted to be a machine, to like everything and everyone. This turned many people off but others found it intoxicating and wanted nothing more than to be around him however they could.

Warhol liked big personalities. He loved rich socialites but he also loved drug addicts, hustlers, drag queens, and other extreme personalities from the fringes of society. They found a haven at Warhol’s Factory and many of them participated sexual and drug-fueled excess, to which Warhol preferred to observe and not participate. The studio came to be the place where misfits and celebrity wannabees felt not only accepted but that they were in charge. It became a haven from the outside world that was cold and hostile to them.

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Andy and some of the Factory regulars, photo by Dennis Hopper, 1963.

Warhol began to extend his influence into aspects of popular culture. He became interested in creating events and happenings including the famous Exploding Plastic Inevitable in 1966. He discovered and managed the Velvet Underground, an iconic sixties rock band featuring the late Lou Reed, John Cale, and later Nico, a German actress, model, and singer.

A film depicting The Exploding Plastic Inevitable with music by The Velvet Underground, 1966:

Despite his love of crazy antics, Warhol had an incredibly strong work ethic. Even at the height of the the Silver Factory, he continued to work feverishly. The only reason he rarely took drugs, specifically Speed, was so that he could stay up all night and keep working.   He maintained a strict routine of phone calls, planning, and meetings into the seventies and eighties.

Warhol’s process was related directly to his considerably affected personality. He said he wanted to be a machine and made much of his early series in a kind of assembly line process, which is how the term the Factory was coined. He would lay out the areas that he wanted to be painted and then would apply the silkscreen. Often assistants did much of the work. He would pick the image to be used in the silkscreen, somebody else would do it, and another person might actually sign the work. Many accused him of stealing ideas and taking the credit for others, including Paul Morissey, who directed his later films. Others laughed it off as they did with much of Warhol’s less amiable qualities.

Clip of Warhol working and interview by the CBC:

Andy often said he was giving up painting in order to try something new (although he always came back). In 1964, he began working with film, claiming that he was doing so because it was easier than painting. His early films are seen by many as his most important and are by far the most experimental. Warhol’s early filmmaking process consisted of eliminating the role of the director (because he claimed he couldn’t do it and didn’t seem that  interested in learning either). Instead, he turned on the camera, leaving it on until the film ran out.

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Warhol working one of his films.

He filmed John Giorno, poet and sometimes boyfriend of Warhol, as he slept for eight hours. He filmed the Empire State Building for six hours straight. He filmed many of the Factory regulars and guests in six minute “screen tests” which acted as portraits of an era. He even revolutionized film projection with Chelsea Girls, a black and white and color double-projection depicting the excitement and excesses of his downtown circle which was the first to achieve some commercial success.

The early films were part and parcel of Warhol’s almost Zen-like love of everything from the most seemingly boring to the most extreme. He flattened out these extremes treating them as equally interesting. At the same time, he saw the films as part of the furniture. He would project them at parties and you could pay attention to them or just see them as background, as part of the atmosphere. It didn’t matter to him. He had no real skill for narrative but understood visuals intently. His early films are impactful and stay logged in the viewer’s memory long after seeing them.

Excerpt from Sleep:

Excerpt from Empire:

Excerpts From Warhol’s Screen Tests:

Excerpt from Chelsea Girls:

Warhol’s personality included some very dark aspects. He had strange coldness and indifference towards the deaths of others, even his friends. Various members of the factory, including most famously Edie Sedgwick, would fall pray to their lifestyle and die from excesses. Sedgwick was Warhol’s darling during the 1960’s but she became addicted to the drugs and alcohol that would eventually contribute to her accidental death. Warhol lost interest in her, did nothing to stop her downward spiral, and showed very little in the way of sympathy when she died.  Many found his coldness to her and other deceased members of the Factory troubling, a more regrettable aspect of his over-the-top persona.

Andy Warhol Looks Adoringly at Edie Sedgwick

Warhol and Edie Sedgwick.

When Warhol nearly died himself, due an assassination attempt in 1968, he was annoyed that Bobby Kennedy’s assassination the next day meant he would not get the cover of Time Magazine. He was nearly killed by a crazed woman in his circle, Valerie Solanas who had been obsessed with getting him to produce her play. That near death experience would change him and his world forever.

Warhol would never again trust the kinds of people he had let into his world during the height of the Factory. The new Factory was run like a business. It’s later incarnations became office spaces and his assistants wore suits. Drugs disappeared from the Factory entirely and sex became a less frequent (although not completely absent) quality. Andy lamented to his employees that they were boring, that he missed the old Factory. However, he would never go back to that kind of environment fearing those elements which had led to his shooting.

Many critics began to think Andy was played out by the seventies and eighties. His art (with a few exceptions) became rather predictable and repetitive and he was mostly known as a portraitist of socialites, movie stars, and pop stars. His later films (really directed by Paul Morissey) became exploitative and unimaginative B-movie tripe. Gone was the experimentation and spontaneity of the early films. Nonetheless, Andy rose to the height of fame during this time. He was on TV and in magazines often, in advertisements and appearances, although he was still reticent about being interviewed and when he was, he rarely said anything of substance.

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Muhammad Ali, 1978.

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James Earl Carter, Jr., 1976.

Warhol being interviewed for a World Wrestling Federation (WWF) promo:

Warhol became a magazine publisher with Interview Magazine and claimed that he now was working in the highest form of art: the art of business.  Being a sellout never bothered him as it did other artists. He had come full circle in a way, back to his commercial art roots. Nonetheless, he never  totally gave up his mantle as the king of a certain kind of New York avant-garde artistic circle.By the eighties, that circle included the likes of graffiti artists and painters Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat and other members the MTV generation.

Warhol hadn’t totally lost its edge. He was still interested in dark and sexual themes and some of his most explicitly gay images date from this time. Warhol would die in 1987, ostensibly from medical malpractice while recovering from a routine surgery. Both extremes of his circle throughout the years, the high and the low, would mourn together during his funeral.

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Warhol and Basquiat.

To me, the superficiality, coldness, and passivity he exhibited throughout his life was a carefully constructed distraction from the real Warhol (Andrew Warhola if you like) who was capable of real depth and profundity while at the same time being an admirably hard worker and man of action. Many people forget that Warhol was a very religious person; a devout catholic throughout his life and someone who loved his mother dearly and lived and cared for her through the last years of her life. He was a real and an intelligent person despite his (and others’) assertions to the contrary.

Warhol pushed the boundaries of what was possible in art and created a whole environment around him which, besides being interesting for historical reasons, helped him create revolutionary and important work. When that world disappeared, so did much of the excitement and inventiveness of the early years as well as the quality of his work replaced for a lust for business and celebrity. Luckily, it is his better and more important work that he is mostly remembered for and that will endure.

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