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Chapter 1 And Back Again: The Persistent Present-ness of Andy Warhol
This chapter explores issues of representing embodied presence as they are expressed in three of Andy Warhol’s works from the late 1950s through the mid1960s and as they intersected with his abiding preoccupation with dance: a blottedline portrait of the choreographer Doris Humphrey completed for the cover of Dance Magazine (1959), two of his Dance Diagrams paintings (1962), and a 16mm film starring the Judson Dance Theatre’s Lucinda Childs, Shoulder (1964). 1 Over the course of this chapter, I consider how Warhol’s investments in dance resonate with circulating discourses about the artist’s body and the presence of the art object and suggest an insistent queerness in his techniques and works themselves—a queerness that is performed and reperformed, leaving traces across a range of media. While iconographical readings that isolate and highlight expressions of non-normative sexuality in Warhol’s work have gained in prominence over the last twenty years, my 1
Two recent exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues have also begun to examine Warhol’s interests in dance. See Stéphane Aquin, ed., Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Warhol’s Work (New York and London: Prestel, 2008); and Eva Meyer-Hermann, ed., Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms (Rotterdam: NAi, 2006). Warhol Live was organized by The Montreal Museum of Art in partnership with The Andy Warhol Museum and originated in Montreal. As of June 2009 the exhibition has also been shown at San Francisco’s de Young Museum and The Andy Warhol Museum. Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms was organized by the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), and The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh). The exhibition began its tour at the Stedelijk Museum in October 2007, and was subsequently shown at Moderna Museet, Hayward Gallery (London), and The Wexner Center of Art (Columbus, Ohio). These exhibitions and their catalogues did not include any of the works under discussion in this chapter, or any sustained critical consideration of Warhol’s relationship to dance. Additionally, in the exhibition of Andy Warhol at The Wexner, the Dance Diagram included was exhibited on the wall behind a Plexiglas case. The Live exhibition, while including two examples of Warhol’s Dance Diagrams, makes no mention of the diptych Diagrams, the first of the Dance Diagrams that Warhol chose to publicly display. Gavin Butt’s Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948–1963 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006) includes a chapter on Warhol that considers his association with an avant-garde theater and dance world and discusses the Diagrams, but again does not address the existence of the diptych Diagrams.
argument, although deeply indebted to these revisionist histories of his work and life, issue from a slightly different perspective. 2 The queerness I discern in Warhol’s work manifests at the level of aesthetic signification and spectatorial reception and challenges traditional signifying means of the art object on a more fundamental level. My argument is not meant to deny or discount Warhol a politics of identity, which is becoming increasingly well-documented and difficult to ignore. 3 Rather, it is to reclaim for the queerness of his practice a wider challenge to the reification of the art object, to social conformity, and ultimately, to the very subjective forms through which modern relations of power came to operate on works of art, as well as on the bodies of artists and their viewers in post-WWII New York. To put this queerness into relief I focus on the corporeality of Warhol’s experience in the creative process, the traces of embodied experiences recorded in his works, and the corporeal encounters of his audiences with these objects. With this approach, I hope to better reveal the ways in which the embodiment of subjectivity and representations of embodiment are vulnerable to impositions of cultural power, as well as how these artworks themselves creatively renegotiate such impositions of power in order to produce alternative trajectories for contemporary art, make rooms for other art objects, and allow agency for differently embodied art viewers within the reigning 2
The male homosexual aspects of the 1940s and 1950s dance and theatre worlds in New York and Warhol’s associations with those worlds have been explored by the art historian Gavin Butt. My argument builds upon Butt’s insights, but diverges from it in its insistence that Warhol’s engagement with dance extends beyond his lived experiences with dancers and the avant-garde dance world and/or a thematic interest in dance in his work to pervade his artistic processes and techniques on a more fundamental level. 3
For a full list of the scholarship that addresses in some way the queerness of Warhol’s work see fn. 3 in chapter 4 of this dissertation.
discourses and spaces of contemporary art in the late 1950s and 1960s. 4 The works by Warhol examined in this chapter are in threat of being reified by the discourse of art history, which has rapidly expanded to canonize hitherto underconsidered artworks of the 1950s and 1960s, including those that transcend mediumspecificity and that are preoccupied with performance. Recently, increasing attention has been directed toward artworks that have tended to be resistant to traditional archival and institutional methods of valuation. This process of reification threatens to displace the challenges that may have been posed to normative conceptions of the artist’s and audiences’ bodies and the presence of the art object by these works, focusing scholarly attention upon determining stylistic identities for such works and guaranteeing places within narratives of formal and aesthetic innovation. In response to this privileging of one set of concerns and a displacement of others in the art historical literature, my methodology privileges the performances of the works themselves in their original contexts, as well as today, to draw attention to the troubling and disturbingly material bodies to which these works so effectively draw attention. Persistent Present-ness I like to be the right thing in the wrong space and the wrong thing in the right space. – Andy Warhol 5 4
My methodology in this regard is informed most notably by Michel Foucault’s understanding of “genealogy” as a means of writing history that does not insist on the exclusion of embodied experience. See Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, CounterMemory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews with Michel Foucault, ed. Donald F. Buchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977): 139–164.
Before analyzing the works themselves, I would first like to introduce and discuss one idea that will be central to my argument, the idea of presence, which came to occupy a central place in art critical debates of the 1960s. While the term “presence” acquired a referential force in the 1960s it has remained a somewhat elusive concept. The term took on a critical dimension in the writings of the Clement Greenberg, Michael Fried, and William Rubin, as well as the artist Robert Morris over the course of the decade. 6 According to Rubin: “ [Presence] refers to the way in which the work imposes itself on the perception and experience of the viewer . . . the ability of a configuration to command its own space.” 7 For Rubin and other critics and artists of his generation, presence was understood as the obdurate force linking the spectator to the art object, offering a sense of art as an autonomous being or thing, and creating a distance, both physical and psychical, that the viewer experiences during her encounter with the art object. In his famous essay “Art and Objecthood” (1967), Michael Fried, the most vocal critic of a type of presence he discerned in the work of Minimalist sculptors like
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: (From A to B and Back Again) (New York: Harvest, 1977), 158. Throughout his life and work, Warhol continued meditations on the relationship of his embodied self to mediated representational spaces. The following insight is also offered in The Philosophy: “Before media there used to be a physical limit on how much space one person could take up by themselves. People, I think, are the only things that know how to take up more space than the space they’re actually in, because with media you can sit back and let yourself fill up space on records, in the movies, most exclusively on the telephone and least exclusively on television.” Philosophy, 146. 6
For an excellent discussion of the concept of presence as it emerged in the artistic practices of and writings about Minimalism, see Frances Colpitt, “ External Issues: The Spectator,” in Minimal Art: The Critical Perspective (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 67–100. 7
William Rubin, Frank Stella (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1970), 37.
Donald Judd, suggests that one of the most degenerative, perverse side effects of Minimal work is the introduction of temporality into the modern art gallery experience of viewing painting and sculpture. This heightened experience of temporality causes the viewer to retain a persistent awareness of her embodied self throughout viewing, threatening to collapse the experience of viewing art in a gallery with the experience of watching a theatrical performance. Such a collapse effectively turns the art viewer into a subject—subject to the experience of encountering a work of art—and the artwork into an object. 8 This theatrical mode of presentness thus imparts to the work of art something akin to stage presence and threatens to turn the autonomous modern sculptural art object into a surrogate for a person, according to Fried. 9 In contrast to this “perverse” type of presence Fried finds exhibited in much of the work of the 1960s, he also identifies a sense of the ideal “presentness”—used interchangeably by him with “presence”--of the work of art: It is this entire and continuous presentness, amounting, as it were to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness: as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it. I want to claim that it is by virtue of their presentness and instantaneousness that modernist painting and sculpture defeat theatre. 10
Michael Fried, “Art and Objecthood,” in Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 127. Originally published in June 1967 issue of Artforum. 9
While there are numerous insightful critiques of Fried’s seminal essay which extend well beyond my current argument, his articulations of these two different types of “presentness” are useful for thinking through the possibility of Warhol’s own extended investments in the theatrical, performative, and perhaps even perverse aspects of both making and viewing works of art. Like other avant-garde artists of his era, most notably the Minimalists, Conceptualists, and other Pop artists, but also those involved with Happenings and Events, Warhol was deeply invested in critiquing several existing traditions and conventions of modern art exhibitions. Just a few examples of his investment in this critique include his Brillo Boxes exhibition at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in 1964, offering an early example of a gallery installation, the production of several wallpapers upon which he often exhibited his work, and his choice to exhibit avant-garde films in non-traditional formats in nontraditional venues. Warhol, like earlier and contemporaneous avant-garde experimenters, sought to reveal the forms of artistic conventions, as well as the traditions of artistic production and display as constructed rather than self-given, by fragmenting and interrupting them. Such fragmentation promises to reveal the various ways in which the typical creation and presentation of the art object operate as entrenched signifying practices and producers of cultural hierarchies and values. The truly queer aspects that I find in Warhol’s work are those fragmentations and interruptions, those persistent present-nesses rather than presentnesses. These are witnessed in the momentary slippages of registration in his silk-screened paintings, as
well as in the filmic frame in his Screen Tests (among several other films that were filmed at sound speed, 24 fps, and projected at silent speed, 16 fps). The presentnesses that Warhol embraces never transcend the historical limitations of the moment of their making and always carries within them the suggestion of what is lacking, what could not find expression in the available frames of representation, what could not be fully presented at any particular moment. It is this sense of incompleteness that denies the viewer of Warhol’s work the modernist Kantian sense of presentness so dear to Fried, withholding the conviction Fried associates with an aesthetic experience of the presentness (again, used interchangeably by Fried with presence) of an art object that promises to carry her beyond the limits of her own situated experience of embodied temporality in her current social situation. Significantly, Warhol’s calling attention to the expectations on the part of the audience for the artwork to offer an experience of presentness by flirting with and often withholding that experience allows him to uncover the possibilities of agency and resistance in the performative repetitions of such presence--a presence which Warhol and other “postmodernists” reveal as a fiction or illusion whose a priori existence is by necessity performatively produced. Warhol does not entirely liquidate ideas of the presentness then-circulating, which insist on the idea of subjective autonomy, integrity of the art object, and stable, critical distance (positions which historically tended to be occupied most easily by white, straight men), but rather reveals how this idea of presentness itself must be performed and reperformed--is
itself a performance--and creates works that in the process offer a different sort of present-ness, a persistent present-ness, for the object and the viewer. This persistent present-ness can be seen not only in the works by Warhol that I discuss in detail below, but also in his practices of returning to the same materials, images, and themes over and over again, a practice that both asks of the viewer and demands of the artist continuing and ongoing re-performances of a past relation. In order to continue to be presently engaged by the presence of the artwork at hand, Warhol’s process of constant recycling and re-ordering suggests that it is necessary to recall the act that got one to this current stage to begin with, and to consider the act not anew, but again: the labor of remembering and reminding must be undertaken, the question of why one got here in the first place, asked. In these ways his works trip up an experience of “presentness” associated with the modern gestalt of an integrated “I” who might feel the whole of his self in the moment when he is in the presence of the work of art. This is an experience Donald Judd refers to as “specificity,” the sense of one’s self and the art object as unified wholes, integrated structures. 11 Instead of this unified presentness to which sculptors like Judd hoped their work might aspire, the persistent present-ness found in Warhol’s works offers a stumbling or stuttering sort of presentation of the art object, a present-ness that persistently works to interrupt any centered sense of embodied self or unified vision, while still flirting with the
For further discussion of gestalt and its central position within Minimalism, especially the work of Robert Morris, see Colpitt, 97–98. Morris, inspired by his background in performance, described his sculptural work in terms that inextricably intertwined the experience of a moving body, the work of art, and the gallery space. Morris made the act of viewing itself his abiding focus and primary aesthetic concern, concentrating on the impact an artwork has on the viewer sharing its space.
promise of presentness and skillfully utilizing its possible intersections with a libidinal gaze to elicit and direct the viewer’s interest and attention. It is Warhol’s preoccupation with this idea of present-ness in his work and in his life, which significantly suggest the emergence of an alternate mode of subjectivity and aesthetic in his work, a queer subjectivity and aesthetic which insist on performatively presenting themselves, but which may never fully arrive. 12 The idea of present-ness resonates with Eve Sedgwick’s theorization of queerness (which builds upon the insights of Judith Butler), as an experience that is intimately entwined with and expressed through time. According to Sedgwick, “if ‘queer’ exists at all it can only be in an ongoing performativity,” what she refers to as a “persistently present.” This is a present that is “ . . . created and sustained by the effortful acts—productions and interventions—that embody it.” 13 To be the right
In a brilliant essay on the casting works of Richard Serra from the late 1960s, Rosalind Krauss has suggested an idea of presenting in relation to the casting process of some of his works, a process that for Krauss suggests a different understanding of presence and signals promising alternatives for the art object. For Krauss, Serra’s casting suggests a type of presenting rather than presence that wholly unfolds in the experience of the present. Presenting thus suggests not just a present tense but a present progressive that actively connects past to present and opens the present to the future. See Krauss, “Richard Serra: Sculpture Redrawn,” in The New Sculpture, 1965–1975: Between Gesture and Geometry, eds. Richard Armstrong and Richard Marshall (New York: Whitney Museum of Art, 1990), 274–277. The significant difference I discern between Krauss’s understanding of Serra’s “presenting” and the persistent present-ness I discern in Warhol’s work revolves around the issue of cultural constraints and gendered expectations that limit bodily conformity in material and representational spaces. Where Serra’s works suggest an opening on the past and to the future in what Krauss identifies as a present progressive, Warhol’s relation to presenting, while highlighting the presence of the past moment in the present and signaling the future within the present, also highlights the constraints that limit which presences are capable of registering in any one current frame of representation at any one moment. 13
S. M. Barber and D. L. Clark, “Queer Moments: The Performative Temporalities of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick,” in Regarding Sedgwick: Essays on Queer Culture and Critical Theory, S. M. Barber and D. L. Clark, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2002), 2, 11. The bodies that are presented on screen and stage in the works under discussion explore gender subjectivity (the gender roles one steps
thing in the wrong space and the wrong thing in the right space, as Warhol claims he likes to be, is to resist the normative social and aesthetic ideologies that encourage one’s body and that constrain the modern art object to be the right thing in the right place at the right time. In insisting on being the wrong thing at the right time and having his work often perform this uneasy present-ness, Warhol offers us examples of how we might conceive of thinking differently about how artist’s bodies relate to their chosen media, and of folding differently imagined ways of thinking about artistic media back into the artist’s and the audience’s bodies--a move which is capable of calling attention to the seemingly fixed frames of the gendered body and the boundaries of the proper art object, while also producing a sense of possibilities for other interpenetrations of artistic media and the body, of other rooms and voices in contemporary art, of differently imagined aesthetic spaces as well as different material social spaces. Warhol’s most effective works create an effect (again in the words of Sedgwick) that is at “once both indefinite and virtual, as well as forceful, resilient, and undeniable.” 14 In other words, if meaning exists in Warhol’s work the meaning I find most significant for the direction of contemporary art after WWII is that which is always embedded in this paradox: there is never more to see than what is present and there is always more present than one could possibly see. While the first part of this
into) and sexual subjectivity (regarding sexual orientation or interaction) as constantly produced, rather than as fixed and stable. 14 Ibid., 2. Quoted in Judith Halberstam, In A Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York and London: New York University Press, 2005), 11.
paradox is likely familiar from the oft-quoted: “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it;” 15 it is the second aspect I explore below by drawing attention to Warhol’s ability to create throughout his career a powerfully felt visceral sense of what is present, or what is being presented, but may not be fully visualized, may not fully surface. Below I trace a genealogy for Warhol’s work that seeks to open up the critical discourse to more fully examine Warhol’s significant and sustained engagement with the idea of that art object as a performance that presents itself again and again but which always and necessarily must leave unseen, unheard, or unperformed those bits and pieces that fall outside the parameters of the lighted rectangle of representation-off the stage, or beyond the frames. To open up an alternative reading of Warhol, I return to one of the origin stories we tell about Warhol: his arrival in New York and his experiences in advertising and fashion, and explore a bit more Warhol’s very early interests in dance. Dance offered Warhol an aesthetic form that allowed him to differently incorporate his queerly embodied experiences into a range of media, and to produce different relationships of art audiences to his artworks.
Step One: Andy Makes It to the Big City While studying pictorial design at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Warhol began seriously exploring his 15
Grechen Berg, “Andy: My True Story,” Los Angeles Free Press (17 March 1967), 3. Reprinted from the East Village Other. Quoted in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, 340.
interests in ballet and modern dance, attending all the visiting performances by the modern choreographer José Limón, as well as having the opportunity to see a performance of Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring—an experience he reportedly found deeply moving. 16 Warhol also started taking modern dance classes bi-weekly with a female friend and became the only male member of the Modern Dance Club, with whom he posed in campily-defiant attitude for a yearbook photograph in 1948, a year before moving to New York City 17 (Fig. 1). In addition to exploring modern dance, Warhol also began self-directed studies of film. He joined a student club that organized screenings of films from the Museum of Modern Art collection and brought in guest speakers such as the avant-garde composer John Cage and the avantgarde filmmaker and dancer Maya Deren, who gave presentations at Outlines, then Pittsburgh’s only contemporary art gallery. 18 In August 1949, Warhol and his former Carnegie classmate Philip Pearlstein, who had moved to New York City together after graduating, rented a large room at the end of a Chelsea loft. They shared the loft with Franziska Boas, who was then living with her friend Jan Gay as well as enormous dog named Name. 19 Franziska
Victor Bockris, Andy Warhol: The Biography (New York: De Capo Press, 2003), 67.
During the 1940s the number of college dance program had grown considerably in the United States paralleling a growth of higher education in general. For a discussion of this phenomenon and its impact on the modern dance world see Susan Manning, Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), 185. 18
19 In one of her memoirs, Phyllis Tickle has noted that while she was a student of Franziska Boas’s at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, she was transformed by Boas’s understanding of names. Tickle recalls Boas telling her: “Primitive peoples . . . even some nonprimitive people living in the
Boas, daughter of the famous anthropologist Franz Boas—an expert on the cultures of Northwest Coast Indians and a pioneer of American anthropology—was herself a trained anthropologist, as well as a dancer, dance therapist and educator (Fig. 2). 20 Boas was also a committed activist for social justice and was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers that stood in the way of African-Americans wishing to pursue careers in modern dance. In 1933 Boas founded the Boas School of Dance, an interracial dance school in New York City, which she directed until 1949. During that time, Boas had both John Cage and Merce Cunningham as students. In 1939 Cage appeared in Boas’s dance Changing Tensions, and during the years 1942-3 Cage taught his own classes at her School. 21 Throughout the 1940s Boas also conducted extensive volunteer work with schizophrenic children at Bellevue Hospital, where she pioneered the use of dance movement as a therapeutic treatment for profoundly psychologically-disturbed children in a program that was initially funded by the Works Progress Administration. 22 When the money for the project dried up, Boas
midst of civilized societies, regard an individual’s name as containing the essence of his or her personness.” Phyllis Tickle, What the Land Already Knows: Winter's Sacred Days (Stories from the Farm in Lucy) (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003), 85-86. Whether or not the significance of naming as Boas understood it registered the same effect on Andy Warhol cannot be determined, but the fact that Billy Linich became Billy Name upon entering the Factory suggests as much. 20
For more on Cage’s appearance in Boas’s Changing Tensions see Barry Michael Williams, “The Early Percussion Music of John Cage, 1935-1943,” Ph.D. diss., Michigan State University, East Lansing, 224; Robert Dunn, ed. John Cage (New York: Henmar Press, 1962), 38; and Alfred Frankenstein, “A Program of Percussion,” San Francisco Chronicle, 28 July 1939. For information on Cage teaching at the Franziska Boas School see New York Herald Tribune, “League’s Giving Novel Program Sunday, Feb. 7,” New York Herald Tribune, 31 January 1943, np. For a complete outline of John Cage’s career see http://www.xs4all.nl/~cagecomp/ 1912-1971.htm accessed on 21 Oct 2008. 22
In summer of 1953 Franziska Boas taught a guest class at the Halprin-Lathrop School in San Francisco, which was influential upon Anna Halprin’s own experimental dance and movement
continued this experimental movement work privately throughout the 1940s in her own studio loft. The loft into which Warhol and Pearlstein moved had been fixed up by Boas to look like a theater, complete with a proscenium arch toward the back where she conducted her classes and private lessons and also lived. Boas’s arrangement suggests a blurring of the line between private and public/communal spaces—sites of living and working, leisure and employment—that anticipates the later use of the open warehouse floor of Warhol’s Silver Factory on 47th Street for his collaborative creative experiments. 23 The presence of a make-shift theatrical stage in Boas’s domestic space also reflects an emerging interest among postwar New York anthropological and avant-garde circles in how the lines drawn between the everyday performances of self and the aesthetic acting we limit to the stage is largely a matter framing. In other words, there was growing interest in the interdependence of what anthropologist Victor Turner would later refer to as “two modes of acting – in ‘real life’ and ‘on stage,’” in how these modes reflect one another and are in an ongoing, dynamic dialogue. 24 An exploration of the interdependence of social dramas of life
work, especially upon the development of Halprin’s interest in improvisation and experimentation with dance in non-traditional spaces of performance. Halprin’s workshops, held near San Francisco, were attended by several future Judson choreographers including Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, and Trisha Brown. For further discussion of the relationship between Boas and Anna Halprin see Janice Ross and Richard Schechner, Anna Halprin: Experience as Dance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 95, 190. 23
Although admittedly Warhol himself never actually lived at the Factory and only worked there, thus keeping the distinction between his private and public lives somewhat firmly delineated, many of his associates, including most notably Billy Name, who lived in the Silver Factory between January 1964 and November 1969, had a more fluid notion of the lines between private and public spaces.
and cultural performances on the stage would become central to many of Warhol’s Factory experiments with live and filmed performances. These frequently turned the Factory floor into what could be understand in anthropology and performance studies circles as a “liminal space”—a site where the social conventions and typical performances of the everyday might be suspended in order to allow for role reversals and symbolic embodiments of alternative identities. Such a “liminal space” could operate like an unusual group therapy session where many who found themselves psychologically damaged by their family situations and/or socially maladjusted, or even sexual “outlaws” by the standards of mainstream culture, could temporarily try on alter-egos or act out illegal roles, roles that allowed them to explore their own deepest fears, darkest aggressions, or repressed sexual fantasies before Warhol’s camera and in the presence of others who were sometimes sympathetic and sometimes hostile. 25 While these experiences at Boas’s own loft seem to have had some lasting impact on Warhol, his time there was rather brief. In March 1950, Warhol and Pearlstein were evicted from the loft and Boas was forced to move from New York due to a number of personal and financial setbacks. 26 Through Leila Davis (Singeles),
Victor Turner, “Are there universals of performance in myth, ritual, and drama?” in By Means of Performance: Intercultural Studies of Theatre and Ritual, eds. Richard Schechner and Willa Appel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 16. 25
The most poignant example of this type of experiment is the unpreserved film Prison that Warhol shot and which was based on Bibbe Hansen’s own traumatic experiences in juvenile reform schools. Hansen was the daughter of the Fluxus artist Al Hansen and traveled in the Fluxus and Warhol circles as a precocious teenager. The film starred Bibbe Hansen and Edie Sedgwick. Author’s email exchange with Hansen, March 27, 2007. 26
another one of his friends from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Warhol arranged to move uptown with Davis and without Pearlstein into an apartment on the Upper East Side that was rented by Victor Reilly, a dancer with Ballet Theater (later American Ballet Theater). Between 1950–51, Reilly’s apartment was inhabited by a rotating roster of six male and female tenants, most of whom were dancers. During his stay in Reilly’s apartment, Warhol referred to Leila Davies as his “Mother” and the dancer Elaine Baumann as “little one,” a fact that belies a knowing recognition that the queer domesticity in which he was living offered a skewed variation on the reigning model of acceptable community in post-WWII America: the nuclear family. 27 It was while he was residing in Reilly’s apartment, according to his biographer Victor Bockris and the art historian Gavin Butt, that Warhol began tentatively stepping out in to the homosexual cultural undergrounds associated with theater and dance. 28 In 1952 his first solo New York exhibition—Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote—was held at the Hugo Gallery, then managed by Alexander Iolas, a former dancer with the Ballet Russes. Warhol’s sustained connections with figures in the dance world were reflected in his artwork during this time. These connections often surface explicitly as a theme in his work throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s, as well as being implicitly expressed in many of the drawing, screen-printing, and filmic techniques he developed during these years. Warhol’s first datable blotted-line drawing is a Christmas card of ballet
dancers in various poses that he completed while still at a student at Carnegie Institute of Technology. 29 And, while working as a freelance commercial artist in New York City in the 1950s Warhol not only found steady work as an illustrator for several magazines including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and The New Yorker, but also regularly contributed illustrations to Dance Magazine (Fig. 3). Of the three American periodicals dedicated to dance in the postwar period— including also Dance Observer and Dance News—Dance Magazine had come to dominate the dance press in the 1950s. Oriented toward a readership of dance students, the magazine offered substantial coverage of educational dance activities and columns on such issues as dancers’ health. Unlike the Dance Observer, which had the largest readership in the 1940s and had been founded in 1934 by the musician Louis Horst to support modern dance, and the work of Martha Graham (Horst’s thenlover) in particular, Dance Magazine catered to advocates of both modern dance and ballet and tended to be less polemical in tone. In the 1950s the primary dance critic at Dance Magazine was Doris Hering. Hering tended to favor an expressional dance aesthetic most commonly associated with the choreography of Graham, but also demonstrated more openness to deviations from Graham’s brand of modernism than the Dance Observer critics, including an affinity for emergent interests in objectivism in dance. As a critic, Hering was remarkable not only for the breadth of her coverage,
The earliest extant blotted line drawing by Warhol is a 1948 Christmas card of ballet dancers in various poses sent by Warhol from Pittsburgh to his friend George Klauber who was then an art director in New York. Klauber had met Warhol while studying for a year at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Patrick Smith, Andy Warhol’s Art and Films (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981), 133.
but also for being one of the only significant female voices in the field in the 1950s. While the field tended to be somewhat gender-equitable it was largely dominated by the critical voices of men, including Robert Sabin, George Beiswanger, Nik Krevitsky, and Louis Horst. 30 For the cover of the February 1959 issue of Dance Magazine, three years before he began his well-known series of Marilyn screen-printed paintings immediately following her suicide and four years before he completed his abstractexpressionist-sized, and much more readily-recognized portraits of the choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham, 31 Warhol completed an In Memoriam portrait of the choreographer Doris Humphrey, who had recently passed away, using his blotted-line 30
Most of the dance press of the 1940s-1950s supported and advanced an expressional dance aesthetic. Toward the end of the 1950s, however, several critics appeared who supported objectivism in dance, including David Vaughan, Selma Jeanne Cohen, and Jill Johnston (who later would be the most insightful reviewer of the works of the Judson Dance Theatre). David Denby could also be counted among those who supported objectivism, but he wrote little in the late 1950s. His support of this tendency is witnessed, however, in his early and sustained support of the choreography of Merce Cunningham, and his even earlier support of George Balanchine’s choreography. For an excellent overview of the American dance press in the postwar period see Gay Morris, “Introduction,” in Game For Dancers: Performing Modernism in the Postwar Years, 1945–1960 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2006), xiii–xxviii. In 1957 the dance and art critic Jill Johnston began to articulate a formalized logic for her dedication to a new vanguard in dance that was committed to removing dramatic content from movement. Although she credited modern dance as a whole with moving dance toward abstraction, her formulation of a distinction between abstraction and drama would become one that objectivist dancers in New York, including many of the choreographers associated with Judson Dance Theatre, would use to distinguish their work from expressional dance. During the late 1950s and 1960s Johnston became the most eloquent and vocal supporter of Merce Cunningham and would go on to cover the experiments at Judson Dance Theatre. On Johnston’s articulation of the dance vanguard’s experimentation with abstraction see Johnston, “The Modern Dance—Directions and Criticisms,” Dance Observer (April 1957): 55–56 and “Abstraction in Dance,” Dance Observer (December 1957): 101–102. 31
Warhol created six screen-printed paintings of Merce Cunningham in January–February 1963 from photographs that Richard Rutledge had taken of Cunningham performing his Antic Meet (1958). In 1966, Cunningham asked Warhol if he could use his Silver Clouds for his dance Rainforest (1968). For reproductions of the works and a full description see George Frei and Neil Printz, eds. The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne 01: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-1963 (London and New York: Phaidon Press Ltd., 2002), Cat. Nos. 334–339, pp. 301–307.
technique (Figs. 4 & 5). Warhol based his drawing on a publicity photo of the famous dancer-choreographer that was published inside the issue alongside an article reviewing the many accomplishments of her life (Fig. 6). Unlike the blotted-line drawings in his earlier advertising illustrations and promotional books, in this portrait, Warhol carefully attends to all of the details of Humphrey’s face, hair, and blouse, emphasizing variations in her eyebrows and flowing hair as well as individual stitches in the seams of her blouse. The portrait is composed of quavering, stuttering lines of varying width and length and, like many of Warhol’s illustrations from this time, is “floated” on the blank page. Since the subtle highlights and shadows of the publicity photograph have been omitted in the tracing process used to create the portrait (a process I discuss in great detail below), Humphrey’s visage appears flattened and somewhat emptied, drained of the dimensionality of flesh that is recorded by her photograph (Figs. 5 & 6). Humphrey, a contemporary of Martha Graham, was one of the first American modern dance choreographers. Along with the modernist ballet choreographer George Balanchine she was an early advocate of abstractionist rather than expressionist dance. As a teacher, writer, choreographer, and performer she played a large part in determining the course of modern dance in the United States, but her contribution has often been eclipsed by the length and breadth of Graham’s own career, as well as Graham’s bigger-than-life personality. After dancing as a principal in the Denishawn Company during the 1920s, Humphrey, along with Charles Weidman and Pauline Lawrence, left Denishawn to form their own New York-based school and company,
Humphrey-Weidman, which operated from 1928–1944. In 1929 one of their most successful students and soon-to-be company principal, José Limón, began taking classes. During this time, according to dance historian Susan Manning, “Humphrey and Weidman’s friendship and professional collaboration functioned as something of a closet for both dancers,” with their household situation exemplifying what one performance historian has called a “queer domesticity.” For several years, Humphrey and Weidman lived with José Limón, Weidman’s student and lover, and with Pauline Lawrence, their company manager and Humphrey’s romantic friend during her Denishawn days. All three adults helped Humphrey raise her young son, while her husband, a merchant seaman named Charles Francis Woodford, spent most of his time away. 32 While at Humphrey-Weidman, Doris Humphrey continued developing theories of movement she had been studying for decades, as well as teaching, choreographing, and touring the United States. Her mature choreography was based on a principle of fall and recovery, which explored and exploited the emotional and physical charges available in the kineaesthetic tension between standing and being prone, motionless equilibrium and unbalanced movement, security in one’s bodily arrangement and the vulnerability and thrill of pushing beyond. In 1944, Humphrey performed publicly for the last time in her piece Inquest, and afterward was forced to curtail her career due to severe arthritis in her hip. Despite her physical limitations, however, Humphrey continued her work in
choreography, joining José Limón’s recently founded company in 1946, where she served as artistic director until her death in 1958. 33 Although she could no longer invent movement through the medium of her own body, during the last fourteen years of her life Humphrey practiced her choreography by giving verbal and visual cues that Limón and her experienced dancers then translated into movement—animating for Humphrey with their own bodies the dance vocabulary she bestowed upon them. Humphrey’s most famous piece, Day on Earth, which premiered in 1947, was produced in this manner and featured José Limón as the protagonist “Man.” 34 While the extent of Warhol’s familiarity with Humphrey’s biography and choreography remains difficult to determine with certainty, his intimacy with several dancers and his work for Dance Magazine suggests he would have known of the work of this iconic figure (as well as any gossip about her personal life), and would have quite intimately understood the magnitude of her loss for the modern dance community. In outlining some of the details of her own life and her working process
Johnston’s college dance teacher introduced her to Doris Humphrey, José Limón, Pauline Lawrence, and Charles Weidman in the 1950s. Johnston claims to have studied dance because she fell in love with her female dance teacher. When she moved to New York City in 1953 she began taking dance classes with Limón and has described the atmosphere of his classes in her memoirs: “What was not clear at all was the sexual or gender politics permeating the classes and company strivings. . . . Possibly others looked around them and understood the gender makeup of the classes and company right away. Oh, at some level we all did. This was a perfectly straight situation. José was a gay man, what some people now call a queer married man, whose dances were absolutely heterosexual.” Johnston, Secret Lives in Art: Essays on Art, Literature, Performance (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1994), 95. Quoted in Manning, 201. While studying with Limón, Johnston appeared to be living a straight lifestyle, marrying and having two children. By 1964 Johnston had divorced, and according to dance historian Susan Manning was living with Judson choreographer Lucinda Childs. Nearly a decade later Johnston developed an explicit lesbian-feminist politics in her manifesto Lesbian Nation. Manning, 200–201. 34 For a discussion of this work and the way the work linked mythic abstraction, multiracial casting and the closeting of queerness, see Manning, 188–193. The Limón company performed Day on Earth in a 1959 memorial program for Humphrey.
toward the end of her life, I mean to suggest not only some resonances between the concerns of Humphrey’s life and Warhol’s own—most notably their relation to a nonheteronormative counter-public that suggests under-researched connections between a pre-WWII Bohemianism characterized by non-normative relationships and the postWWII queer avant-garde scenes—but also between Warhol’s own working processes and Humphrey’s practices of dance. The delicate blotted-line portrait of Humphrey that Warhol produced for Dance Magazine hovers like a death mask on the white cover, anchored tenuously in part by Warhol’s signature whose distinctive and graceful style is often attributed to his mother (Fig 5). 35 His employment of this particular technique for the cover highlights his early concern with developing artistic means for re-presenting what has been lost to time. The drawing offers a striking example of how Warhol uses his technique, his process, to think through the possibility of artistic creation as intersubjective performance. Additionally, the work foregrounds a concern with how drawing might be reconceived as a dialogue with photography via print-making--a dialogue that was gestured toward very early in photography’s own history by the chosen title for the first photographically illustrated and commercially printed book:
Patrick Smith has noted how Warhol produced his printed, and hence public calligraphic signature in his commercial work during the 1950s: “In fact, the handwriting is not by Warhol, but Mrs. Warhola, who formed each letter from script after her son supplied the script. Toward the later 1950s, Nathan Gluck would imitate her hand-writing and Warhol bought custom-made printed letters imitating her calligraphy.” Warhol’s seemingly hand-written “signature” was stamped on his illustrations in a process that could be completed by any one of his assistants. Its form was developed through a collaborative process between the artist and his mother. Andy Warhol’s Art and Films (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981), 32. Reproductions of Warhol’s actual hand-written signature from a note and his “public” printed signature both from 1954 are also found in Smith, 33–34.
William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature, as well as by the original choice to refer to the photographic process itself as photogenic drawing (Fig. 7). The idea of painting as performance had, of course, already been linked in the popular and artistic imaginations to Jackson Pollock’s drip painting process, a process with which Warhol would have been intimately familiar. Pollock, the abstractexpressionist-painter-turned-celebrity was the figure whose media-constructed image would come to loom larger than life over the New York artworld into which Warhol stepped in the summer of 1949, the same summer that Pollock made his famous appearance in Life magazine. Pollock had already articulated the nature of this performance in his statement about his painting process, “My Painting,” which was published in the experimental interdisciplinary art review Possibilities in the winter of 1947-1948, several months after Pollock had begun painting his major “allover” drip paintings, which he would continue until 1950. When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of “get acquainted” period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well. 36 Pollock’s musings on his process, on what happens when he is in his painting, suggest an un-ironic conviction that both pictorial and written language could convey his innermost thoughts, could elicit the truth of his painting process. Additionally, his
Jackson Pollock. “My Painting,” Possibilities (New York) 1, no. 79 (Winter 1947-1948):
statement both invites and allows his audience to projectively imagine his private practice of creating his self through the act of painting. His description of this act suggests an existential commitment to being as fully in the act of painting and as authentically present as he can be during his pouring and slinging of paint, in order to let the truth that is the painting emerge from a nexus of freedom, choice, and commitment. Pollock evaluates the success of his painting the way an existentialist thinker would judge the life of an individual. The measure of an authentic life according to existential thinking lies in the integrity of a narrative, a self-constituting story in which a kind of wholeness prevails. Likewise, harmony prevails in the drip paintings, according to Pollock, only if he remains “in” the act of his painting. The allover logic and sense of a unified structure is lost if he loses a concentrated commitment to a unified self, which is expressed in the integrity of the painting. What is left to mean in these elegantly wrought skeins of paint, these intricate weaves of incident that refuse any hierarchy of pictorial organization, any focal point to which we might direct our attention and anchor meaning, according to Pollock’s statement, is the artist’s belief in the truth of his self and the integrity of his acts. Both Pollock’s words and his painting process suggest he is taking a risk, he is offering the meaning of himself up to his readers and his art audiences, he is literally putting his artistic self and emotional life on—and through—the line. Between the time of Pollock’s statement and Warhol’s portrait of Humphrey, there were dramatic changes in the artworld in New York and in the media landscape of America more generally that altered how both the artist and his art objects were
received. During the 1950s and the early 1960s New York was transformed by rapid economic expansion resulting in part from the adoption of a Keynesian economic model that promoted increased consumption as an aid to production and employment. This resulted in an exponential growth in mass consumer culture and the photographic and electronic media associated with it. Along with these general shifts affecting the visual culture of this period, the public press began devoting more attention to developments in contemporary American art, especially to any art story that suggested scandal. Three years after the “My painting” statement by Pollock, a period of time during which the sales of his paintings had stagnated (prices never topped $800 in this period), and after his drip paintings had generated a flurry of critical response and debate, Pollock was catapulted to the status of “art star” by a four-page spread that appeared in Life with the headline: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” (Fig. 8). The spread, with its provocative question for a title, showed Pollock standing in front of examples of his drip paintings, arms crossed in blue jeans and white t-shirt, cigarette suggestively drooping from his mouth. It offered to the American readership an image of an artist defiant, resolute, and determined (importantly also qualities associated with masculinity) in the quest for authentic image-making. The article presents an artist whom we will never entirely know, but about whom we should want to know more, producing Pollock as a public star with, the suggestion is, an inaccessible and unfathomable, personal (and masculinized) identity. 37
"Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?" Life, August 8,
The intrusion of the media into Pollock’s private life and his artistic process would advance even further the following year. The summer after Pollock’s appearance in Life, the photographer Hans Namuth took a series of photographs and also shot extensive film footage of Pollock creating his drip paintings in his barn studio in The Springs, Long Island. The photographs give the viewer the sense of witnessing Pollock’s body in its most expressive state, removed from all markers of sociality and domesticity, connoting Pollock’s access to the natural rhythms of a creative process seemingly rooted in an unmediated corporeality (Fig. 9). In the May 1951 issue of ARTnews, five of the Namuth photographs were published with Robert Goodnough’s article, “Pollock Paints a Picture,” an entry in the magazine's on-going series of articles chronicling the step-by-step process of contemporary painters and sculptors at work (something like do-it-yourself manuals for aspiring artists) in which Goodnough, an abstract expressionist painter himself, likened Pollock’s process to a “ritual dance.” 38 Goodnough’s characterization suggested that Pollock’s embodied painting practice was invested with deep personal symbolic meaning rooted in his self and his body, that the works were saturated with meanings capable of transcending the routine rituals of the everyday. The ARTnews package of photographs and words, along with Namuth’s film, captured an aspect of an artist working that was visceral, potent, and mesmerizing—an athletic, balletic, trancelike performance in which the artist seems completely unaware of the camera, leaving his working body 1949, 42–45. 38 Robert Goodnough, “Pollock Paints a Picture,” Art News 50 (May 1951): 38–41, 60–61. The next year Goodnough contributed another installment to the series with “Kline Paints a Picture,” Art News 51 (December 1952): 36–39.
uncomposed for the visual consumption of his potential viewers. Significantly the painter’s moving body was registered in a series of photographic frames that suggested a narrative imprinted upon his performing body, presenting a “how-to” of Pollock’s process in a step-by-step format, allowing the viewer a certain pleasure of familiarity and intimacy with his artistic practice, and by extension with the artist himself. 39 Warhol’s blotted line technique lends itself well to an analysis of his own step-by-step process, especially since in this particular case the publicity photograph of Humphrey that Warhol used as source material for the magazine cover was printed directly inside. This proximity of Warhol’s printed illustration on the cover to the original source photograph he used to complete it inside the issue, physically yet only partially restages for the reader who pages through the magazine at home the process Warhol had used to complete the drawing some time before. Unlike Pollock, Warhol determines how much of the private performances that are involved in the creation of the work of art he will reveal to his potential audience (a concern with which Pollock appeared entirely unconcerned), and demonstrates a deep investment in revealing the acts of the artist and his corporeality as always already mediated. When Warhol created this blotted-line illustration, the popular media had demonstrated that the phenomenological presence Jackson Pollock reportedly sought to achieve and communicate through his process of painting was one that could be represented and importantly re-narrativized into images of sexual difference through
Goodnough, “Pollock,” 60.
common formats such as the magazine photo-essay. Thus rather than taking inspiration from his own embodied unconscious, a source that might be capitalized upon by the media rather than himself, in this blotted-line drawing Warhol takes inspiration instead from an already mass-circulated publicity photograph that recorded the once-now and now-gone presence of the choreographer Doris Humphrey. Warhol’s process like Pollock’s own embeds within the frame a record of a performative action. But in Warhol’s case that frame is importantly a rather modest page with domestic and hence even feminized associations, whereas in Pollock’s it is the more expansive and, at this historical moment, masculinized canvas as arena. 40 Additionally, unlike Pollock’s example, Warhol’s own performative art action acknowledges a photographic frame that came before him—in this case a photograph that has recorded another unknowable body in an un-retrievable time and space—and then attempts, through his own re-enactment of the photograph that documented the once-present Humphrey, to embed the evidence of his own presentness through the
The art historian Michael Leja has convincingly demonstrated how Pollock and several of his other Abstract Expressionist contemporaries sought to represent a new subjectivity that is linked to what he refers to as “Modern Man” discourse—a discourse that structurally excluded feminized others. Pollock came to embody both the 19th-century Romantic sense of a man free to express the genius of his inner life, and the 20th-century Cold War sense of a highly masculine, heterosexual icon of free speech. See Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997). The gendered ramifications of this subjectivity are addressed most explicitly in Chapter Four, “Narcissus in Chaos: Subjectivity, Ideology, Modern Man & Woman,” 203–274. For further discussion of how Pollock functioned as emblem of Cold War masculinity see also Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 84–88.
laborious process of repeated engagements with Humphrey’s mass-circulated image. 41 In this sense, the blotted-line drawing is a performance that allows Warhol to interweave his embodied presence in the process of his making with the former presence of Doris Humphrey and to then circulate this drawing to an audience comprised largely of dancers and dance students. The appropriateness of his process for an In Memoriam portrait of a choreographer could hardly be more apt. To create this illustration Warhol proceeded through a number of spatial pages and temporal stages that troubles the idea of the origin of the work of art within the body and mind of a unified self, and suggests instead a conception of artistic practice rooted in the idea of historical continuation, insisting upon bodily relationality for its meaning. First, Warhol traced the photograph of Humphrey with a fountain pen, carefully following the outlines of the photograph just as a dancer might follow the steps of her instructor or choreographer by watching a step being marked in time before her and then repeating that step and embodying it for herself. Each moment of drawing, each mark that Warhol makes in this stage of the process traces the outline that light itself had left on the photographic paper to record the once-present body of Humphrey whose impression was durably fixed over the duration of the photographic 41
Warhol’s friend George Klauber has discussed Warhol’s preference for tracing photographs in response to Patrick Smith’s interview question about whether he knew why Warhol preferred such an approach. His understanding suggests that by its multiple derivations, the blotted-line technique allowed Warhol to complete drawings that somewhat ironically suggested a bit more spontaneity and freshness: “You see, it may have been unique because Andy used to work from photographs a great deal. It divorced him from the photograph twice instead of once because, if you trace from a photograph and so on you have one derivation, but if you blot it again, then you can have a second [derivation]. And, I think that maybe his drawings from photographs [were] less rigid and less stiff.” Klauber in Smith, Warhol: Conversations, 22.
exposure. Next Warhol retraced a fragment of the drawing using an old fountain pen (which flowed unevenly) on to a less absorbent piece of paper, and in the moments before the ink could dry carefully blotted this paper with another more-absorbent piece of paper through which the line could literally bleed. This final step is one Warhol would repeat again and again until the now discontinuous and flattened form of Humphrey was completed again but not whole, now at multiple removes from the body of Humphrey herself (once removed by the photograph, once removed by the tracing, and once again removed by the page that was used to make the final impression). These levels of presence (and absence) of Warhol and Humphrey, which are registered in the stuttering line of the portrait itself, were multiplied yet again in the printing of the drawing for the cover of the magazine. The results of Warhol’s multi-step tracing and pressing process are tentative, stuttering impressions (not drawn or even dripped lines) that record the subtle variations in the rhythm and pressure of his hand and his inconsistent pen, a hand that while choosing to constrain itself by respecting the existing photographic frame, is also able to make space within this frame for his own meaningfully embodied gestures and performative interpretations. These personal, and unrepeatable variations are importantly ones that do not serve as evidence of his imposition of a master plan, or even his unconscious desires upon his medium; they allow for chance and accident to register in the work itself as in Pollock’s drip process. But unlike Pollock’s drip paintings, the evidence of Warhol’s embodied presence is recorded at a number of episodic removes that are visible in the final image—removes in space (the next
pages) and time (the impression recording the moments before the ink dried after it was drawn). Rather than approaching drawing as a means to record an active “I,” an embodied presence, or of aspiring to create an artwork of presence for the viewer, Warhol uses a technique of persistent present-ness to nudge the limits of drawing, and also to see if he might put to work the typical ends of mass-reproduced images for his own queer embodied means. While doing so he also performs his own felt intimacy with Humphrey and with one of the realities of ways dance realizes its aesthetic form-by being transmitted from one body to another. The resulting image of Humphrey is pervaded by a quavering stillness and deep sense of absence. Just as we might grasp the position of Warhol’s hand it seems to have moved on: it is no longer there. Just as dance might be understood as the body’s devotion to the moment that cannot be kept, Warhol’s interrupted lines appear also as a devotion to that moment in time when the photographic exposure recorded Humphrey’s presence, but that neither the medium of photography nor Warhol’s mediation of it can sustain. This is the moment Warhol can touch again through the intimate practice of tracing and blotting, but that his blotted-line drawing cannot encompass. The evidence of the repetitions of his process, those stutters in the line, remind us that he cannot and will not allow his viewers the sense of being able to cross space or time definitively, to enter a state of presentness. While art might allow the means of being drawn across our boundaries, always proximate to the other, Warhol’s technique and the resulting image remind us that we are never fused. The gestures and trajectories of Warhol’s hand as he draws do not originate in his own
self, but rather are guided by Humphrey’s photographed form (and by extension her body) to which he returns again and again in the process of drawing. In this way the fiction of either Humphrey’s presence or Warhol’s own are unveiled in the work. Instead what is left for the viewer is a haunting image which quietly asks, but does not demand, that she contemplate how her own lived presentness as it encounters this work might intersect, but never entirely overlap with or displace, the presences of both Humphrey and Warhol who have come before her.
STEP TWO: WARHOL’S DEBUT ON THE NEW YORK ART STAGE Between the time of the blotted-line drawing of Humphrey and Warhol’s first well-received solo shows in Los Angeles and New York in 1962, he struggled to find a painting language that would be considered advanced and taken seriously by the critics. As several art historians have noted, Warhol’s non-commercial work throughout the late 1950s and early 60s continued to be dismissed in unflattering and feminizing, if not infantilizing, terms. The seven-painting series Dance Diagrams were completed the same year as Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup paintings and marked the beginning of his use of a painting vocabulary devoid of much, if any, evidence of embodied feeling (Fig. 10). 42 While much attention has been devoted to
Warhol’s Dance Diagram paintings were completed the same year that Eva Hesse began her departure from abstract painting and her move toward sculpture by contributing a theatrical prop to a performance called Sculpture Dance in which a number of artists danced in sculptures they had made. In summer of 1962 at Woodstock Sculpture Dance was performed as part of the Ergo Suits Travelling [sic] Carnival that was comprised of a range of happenings and events and was a loosely organized group that included Allan Kaprow and Walter de Maria. For Hesse’s contribution two men performed in lieu of the absent Hesse’s body donning a “tube of soft jersey and chicken wire” that just
the necessity of Warhol’s abandonment of any “touch” that might reveal the suggestion of his embodied desire, I find that these paintings are also able to nudge the then-current frames of painting and sculpture in order to make room for Warhol’s and the audience’s embodied desires in not entirely ironic ways and in ways not entirely unlike what the artist accomplishes in the blotted-line drawing of Doris Humphrey. The Dance Diagrams have already received significant critical attention in the art historical scholarship. Benjamin Buchloh has linked Pollock’s drip paintings to Jasper John’s 1955 painting Tango, as well as Warhol’s Diagrams. The inclusion of a windup music box within John’s Tango painting along with the title itself suggests to Buchloh the emergence of a “participatory aesthetics” that is reflected not only in Warhol’s Dance Diagrams, but also in his diagrammatic Do It Yourself paintings of 1962. 43 The way that both of these Warhol series inscribe the viewer literally, almost physically, into the plane of visual representation signal for Buchloh the replacement of a passive, contemplative mode of aesthetic experience by an active, participatory one. Buchloh understands the sense of emptiness in Warhol’s Diagrams as a critique “sort of flopped around, a soft, kind of funny piece with something hanging off of it.” Anna Chave, “Striking Poses: The Absurdist Theatrics of Eva Hesse,” in Sculpture and Photography: Envisioning the Third Dimension (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998) , 168 (chapter, pp. 166–180). Chave’s description of this performed sculpture is based on Tom Doyle’s recollection. Doyle, who was married to Hesse in 1962, is quoted in Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York: De Capo Press, 21). According to Tamara Bloomberg, archivist of the Allan Kaprow Estate, there is no record of the activities of the Ergo Travelling Suit Carnival in the Kaprow Estate or in the Kaprow papers at the Getty Research Institute. Email correspondence with author, December 5, 2008. 43
Buchloh, “One Dimensional, etc.,” in Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, ed. Kynaston McShine (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989), 39–61. Reproduced as “Andy Warhol’s One Dimensional Art, 1956–1966,” in Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 2000): 461–530.
of the impossibility of any liberating, participatory aesthetic in the context of a voracious American advertising culture that solicits and then contains the viewers’ truly transformative participation through mass consumption. 44 For Buchloh, Warhol’s decision to exhibit the Dance Diagrams horizontally not only places them in dialogue with Pollock’s notorious and unconventional method of painting on the floor of his studio/barn, but also signals a shift from a concern with “the strategic games of high art” to the “real rituals of participation within which mass culture contains and controls its audiences.” 45 Rosalind Krauss has also written on the Diagrams in relation to Pollock’s drip paintings, focusing her attention on the implications of the paintings’ horizontality. 46 As Krauss, along with Yve-Alain Bois, has argued, the emphasis on the horizontal dimension in these works radically undermines the cultural convention of sculpture as anthropocentric analogue and vessel of transcendental meaning. Krauss understands Pollock’s “drip paintings” as attacks on the vertical axis itself, an axis in which, she notes, the image of woman has often been suspended in the phallic condition of the fetish. By extension, Krauss views Pollock’s attack on verticality as also an attack on the order of culture and the discipline of the body. Krauss understands Pollock’s horizontal challenge as finding its extension in Warhol’s Diagrams, where the
Buchloh, “Andy Warhol’s,” 484.
Krauss, The Optical Unconscious (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 1993), 269– 276, 326; Krauss, “Carnal Knowledge,” in Andy Warhol: Rorschach Paintings (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 1996); and Krauss, “Horizontality,” in Formless: A User’s Guide, eds. Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss (New York: Zone Books, 1997), 93–103.
possibilities of choreography for undermining the civilized rituals of verticality are literally visualized. More recently Jonathan Flatley has proposed that Warhol’s Dance Diagrams are best understood as an extension of Warhol’s interest in a machine-like mass mediation of the world, and a mining of its potential pleasures rather than a critique of its numbing and flattening effects. Linking the rationalizations of learning to dance to the Taylorist system of rationalizing the masses of working bodies, Flatley suggests that the Diagrams’ representation of a machine-like movement, rather than signaling detachment or emotionlessness, actually suggest how machine-like imitation may lead to emotional attachment to, and desire for, other people. 47 My own interpretation of the Diagrams, while indebted to all of these scholars, most closely approaches Flatley’s understanding, and borrows from his insights an insistence on approaching Warhol as not merely anti- or pro-capitalist. In my estimation, Warhol does indeed seem to understand dance as a mode of engaging with and transforming his world. One way of teaching dance steps and one with which we can verify Warhol’s intimate familiarity is found in the Home Instruction Dance Course Series published by the Dance Guild of New York. In 1956 the Guild had published this series explicitly in response to a growing interest in social dancing, and more subtly perhaps as a symptom of a cultural fear about the racial mixing (and any number of other bodily mixings) made possible in the free-form dancing then
47 Jonathan Flatley, "Art Machine," In Sol Lewitt: Incomplete Open Cubes, ex. cat., ed. Nicholas Baume (Hartford, CT and Cambridge, MA: Wadsworth Atheneum and The MIT Press, 2001), 89.
exploding along with rock-n-roll in public among an emerging youth culture. At the end of these books, life-size footprint cut-outs were intended to be removed, retraced, attached to cardboard and then placed on the floor in the safety and comfort of one’s own home as a template to follow, allowing the amateur dancer to learn and practice all of the steps while listening to the included records. Two of the books from the series, Lindy Made Easy (with Charleston) and Fox Trot Made Easy, were used as sources for Warhol’s seven-painting series, Dance Diagrams, and copies of both remain in his archive. 48 For his long-awaited New York solo show at Eleanor Ward’s Stable gallery in November of 1962, Warhol chose to display two Dance Diagram paintings illustrating the male and female versions of a Lindy dance step called the “Tuck-In Turn” (Fig. 11). 49 The Lindy or Lindy Hop is a form of social dance that emerged in African American communities in Harlem in the late 1920s and 30s and the name of the dance is purportedly derived from Charles Lindbergh’s solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927. The Lindy, considered a vernacular or jazz dance form, is derived from the
George Frei and Neil Printz, eds. The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne 01: Paintings and Sculpture 1961-1963 (London and New York: Phaidon Press Ltd., 2002), 78. 49
Warhol also exhibited a Dance Diagram [Fox Trot: “The Double Twinkle—Man”], along with his 200 Campbell’s Soup Cans, Big Campbell’s Soup Can, 19¢ (Beef Noodle), and Do It Yourself (Flowers) in The New Realists show at the Sidney Janis Gallery. The exhibition was held at two locations: the Janis gallery at 15 East Fifty-seventh Street and an annex at 19 West Fifty-seventh Street Janis had rented to accommodate the large international group of artists including Christo, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Claes Oldenberg, Daniel Spoerri, and Tom Wesselmann, among others. This Dance Diagram painting was exhibited horizontally on a 6inch platform in the Janis annex. The New Realists opened on October 31, 1962 and ran through December 1, 1962, overlapping with Warhol’s first solo New York exhibition at the Stable Gallery that also ran through November 1962. See Ibid., “Appendix 10: The New Realists, Sidney Janis Gallery,” 471. The Dance Diagram painting as exhibited at The New Realists show is reproduced on p. 79 with full catalogue entry on p. 83.
Charleston and it combines the solo improvisations and movements of black dances with the formal partnering and counting structures of European partnering dances. The most famous performers associated with the Lindy found their home at Harlem’s spectacular Savoy Ballroom, where the style flourished and evolved. The Savoy, located in the middle of Harlem, was one of the first racially integrated public places in the United States. The Savoy thrived during the Swing era (1935–1946) when there was a constant presence of a skilled elite group of Lindy dancers and famous weekly dance and band competitions. In the 1950s and 1960s the Lindy, often also referred to as Swing, was taught in a number of studios and became integrated into ballroom training, losing some of its associations with an urban, specifically Harlem and African American, club culture. While there has been some critical discussion of the Dance Diagram series more generally as I discussed above, an exploration of their relation to the racial politics of the New York dance and art worlds has yet to be substantially explored and deserves further attention. Additionally, these two examples of the Diagrams, illustrating a Lindy step and displayed in the form of a horizontal diptych as if they were dance partners, have not been analyzed in the art historical literature. This is somewhat surprising, especially given that this specific pair was chosen for Warhol’s first solo New York exhibition and that a photograph of the diptych appeared in a review of the exhibition in Time magazine (Fig. 12). 50
50 For a complete list of the works included in the exhibition and the gallery plan, see Frei and Printz, “Appendix 11: Stable Gallery, November 1962,” 472. Another photograph documenting the diptych arrangement of these two paintings at the Stable Gallery is reproduced as fig. 49 on p. 84.
Warhol completed these two Diagrams by employing ready-made imagery from his instruction book, The Lindy Made Easy. He copied directly, without abridgement or revision, the projected details of the two pages onto two equal-sized canvases painted white. 51 Removing the pages with the selected diagrams from the books, Warhol temporarily attached each to more rigid supports. Using an opaque projector to enlarge the diagrams he traced in pencil the steps exactly as printed in the dance guidebooks onto his canvases—omitting only the name of the step from the top of the page and the page number from the bottom—and then traced the arrangement over again, filling in the forms when necessary, with black paint by hand. The two paintings—“The Lindy Tuck-In Turn-Man” and “The Lindy Tuck-In Turn-Woman”—were displayed at the Stable Gallery without any description so that only those familiar with the instruction books or with dance vocabulary might recognize their source, or the dance with which they were associated (Figs. 11 &
According to the authors, Emile de Antonio introduced Ward to Warhol. After canceling another show, Ward visited Warhol’s studio and scheduled a one-person exhibition of his work in November. The works Ward remembers showing indicate the exhibition was conceived of as a survey of his recent work along with examples from various ongoing series. The exhibition was reviewed by Donald Judd, “In the Galleries: Andy Warhol,” Arts Magazine 37, no. 4 (January 1963), 49. In July of 1962, Warhol exhibited thirty-two paintings of individual soup cans with each painting depicting a different variety of soup at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, then directed by Irving Blum. Warhol’s first exhibition in a specifically vanguard context occurred several months before his exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York. For the exhibition, Blum devised a narrow ledge around the gallery’s perimeter on which the paintings rested. Frei and Printz have noted: “Blum’s installation was a hybrid between an elegant gallery rail and a supermarket ledge, but the latter has been favored in the literature.” For a complete description of the Ferus type of Campbell’s Soup Can paintings, as well as the Ferus exhibition, its reception and photographic documentation, see Frei and Printz, 70–77. 51 The choice to trace the projected diagrams directly onto his canvases distinguishes the Dance Diagrams from other diagram paintings Warhol completed in 1961, which were copied freehand at a larger scale.
12). 52 But the readily apparent gendered difference of shoe shape would signal quite readily to most, if not all viewers that the step was ideally intended for a heterosexual couple. Oriented facing one another and pressed flush, the two separately framed and equal-sized canvases were exhibited on special platforms that had been specifically built for the occasion and which raised them six inches off the gallery floor. 53 The Dance Diagrams were placed in the gallery in a way that radically confuses, but suggestively does not collapse, the distinctions between painting and sculpture, between dance and painting, and between the stage for aesthetic performances and the ground of everyday performances of self. The diagrams offered a visual pun on the long-running basic rule in design education of working the tension between the figure and the ground. Creating a figure/ground relationship through the use of a few cool, legible, and economical black lines and shapes applied to a white painted ground and then exhibiting the paintings horizontally slightly above the viewer’s ground, Warhol’s dadaist gesture makes the hundred-plus years of vertical pictorial struggles that had reached a climax in the elegant push-pull wrestling matches of figure/ground that were celebrated in New York School canvases such as those by Willem de Kooning appear rather old-fashioned and uptight by comparison. But more significant for my argument is that the content of these simple diagram-paintings reveals how the rules of social dancing operate as a template to initiate performers into bodily comportments that through practice—that is their 52
53 Photographs of the base that was used for the display of the Dance Diagram that shown at the New Realists exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1962 can be found in Frei and Printz, figs. 50a-c, p. 84.
repetition- reinforce the heterosexual dyad and generate and sustain strictly gender normative identities. Warhol’s choice to complete what I can only call a super-flat painting to illustrate this idea unveils the humor and the horror that attend the operations of this particular norm. The diagrams illustrate for the viewer a certain absurdity. They demonstrate that the attempt to mold any one of our too-big feet and clumsy bodies to fit perfectly into the ideal steps of social dancing--steps which are intended to be repeated again and again by any body anywhere throughout time but which may have originated with no one body in particular--is an undertaking that could leave us all literally flat and neutered, reduced to an outline, or alternately all left standing, like unwanted wall-flowers, in the shadows that lie beyond the litrectangle of the heteronormative frame. Warhol conveys this idea by having his painting/sculpture/dance floor perform its own spatial interruption of the typical operations of the gallery space. The Diagrams disrupt the contemplative viewing situation for painting in which the viewer might forget about her own body and hope to be transported mentally into another world. Walking into the Stable gallery while directing one’s look only toward those objects hung or displayed at eye level, or even while looking to engage another like-minded vertically oriented viewer attempting to forget his body, would literally cause one to stumble over these paintings. Additionally, trying to engage with these works as modern sculptures promising to transcend the dimensions of the relational or the anthropormorphic, we would find ourselves hung up by the simple presence of recognizable, abstracted footprints so very near our own real feet, forcefully
demanding that we attend to the situated-ness of our bodies and revealing the partial nature of our vision. While looking at these horizontal Diagrams we would also find ourselves more often than not aware of bodies like ours doing or not doing the same. Finally, if we try to think of the diagrams in relation to a tradition of figurative sculpture, which for centuries had acknowledged the uprightness of the viewer in order to establish bodily empathy with him or her, we will have to find access to such empathy in the recesses of our own minds, with our own invisible and imagined figures. It is here that I find this work most affecting: any meaning in the Diagrams will not reveal itself through the viewer’s physical experience of moving around it, as we might expect to experience a sculpture in a modern gallery space, where the potential for the viewer’s emotional experience and aestshetic enlightenment is predicated upon the frozen stillness of the artwork itself. Instead the meanings of the Diagrams must be found in the imaginings the viewer completes for him- or herself. Employing a graphic language almost entirely devoid of the suggestions of embodied presence, Warhol’s Diagrams refuse to allow the viewer to invest her own feelings in the formerly enacted, emotionally laden and now-stilled labors of the painter’s hand, as had happened with the action paintings of Jackson Pollock. Instead any emotional meaning, or any meaning in the work at all, must be created through her own intellectual labor. Troubling the expected experiences of painting and sculpture in these ways, Warhol creates in the gallery a space for a reflexive experience that asks his viewers to think about how all of our bodies do or do not perform and re-perform
certain social norms of comportment. Forcing us to look down at our own feet that are excluded from his own make-shift painting-as-stage Warhol places us in the position of the bodies that have been excluded and which continue to be excluded, not only from the typical stages of social dancing but also perhaps from the stages of art then emerging in New York City at the time and asks us how exactly we do or don’t measure up. But Warhol’s intervention in the Dance Diagrams also importantly allows us new pleasures of imagining a figure or figures of whatever gender and sexual orientation and in any number of perverse combinations dancing in the art galleries and beyond, dancing for, and perhaps even with, us. That is, of course, if we are in on the joke.
STEP 3 AND BACK AGAIN: WARHOL’S FACTORY MEETS JUDSON DANCE THEATRE In the blotted-line drawing of Doris Humphrey, as well as the Dance Diagrams, Warhol acknowledges the phenomenological dimensions of the work of art, how it speaks to and elicits reactions from our bodies, while also addressing the reality that in order for a work of art to have meaning, in order for it to historically register, it must be articulated within already existing frames or on already existing stages that are themselves implicated in the production of sexual difference. In this final section I briefly consider how Warhol’s Shoulder film completed in 1964 extends the interrogation of this reality in to his filmmaking projects, while also serving as an example of his continued engagement with the world of dance, a world
which had radically changed over the course of the decade and since the time that Warhol first posed with the Modern Dance Club at Carnegie. In Warhol’s 1964 film, Shoulder, the shoulder of Lucinda Childs, a dancer and choreographer who worked consistently with the Judson Dance Theatre during the prolific years of 1962–64 and who moved in with the dancer and art/dance critic Jill Johnston the year this film was completed, 54 occupies the center of the frame in closeup for the duration of an unedited 100’ roll of film, approximately four minutes. Childs is wearing a striped tanktop that appears to be the same one she is wearing in the Screen Test films Warhol shot of her, suggesting the film is in a sense a portrait of the dancer and choreographer, and a rather atypical one. The shoulder remains still for the majority of the film, until Childs flexes it near the end. This film, completed during Warhol’s cinematic experimentations at the Factory, and during a time when there were a number of figures moving somewhat fluidly between the Factory and Judson Church and working in some capacity at both, including Billy Name, Freddy Herko, and Jill Johnston. Like many of Warhol’s other film projects from this period, including his serial Kiss and Screen Test films, Shoulder is a single-shot silent 16 mm film that was filmed at sound speed (24 fps) and projected at silent speed (16 fps) and lasts four minutes when projected. The temporal delay that Warhol has the cinematic apparatus perform makes the viewer aware of a disjunction between the filming time (how long it took to film), the projection time, and the spectatorial time. Rather than wedding
the temporalities of what has passed before to what is being re-presented now, a condition that leads to the realism effect of cinema and promotes viewer identification, this temporal “drag” calls attention to the fact that the image of the shoulder is located elsewhere from the material shoulder it represents, as well as from the bodies of the viewers. In this way any simple suturing of the viewer’s desire onto the image of the shoulder, and any simple sense of ownership or control over the image, and by extension any sense of an embodied intention or desire of the performer or of the director, are all thwarted. The shoulder is a body part that is not usually considered capable of motivating any cinematic narrative or easily eliciting any viewer desire. It is not typically associated with either the logic of desire or the logic of fetishism in traditional painting or cinema. But in this film, the dancer’s shoulder is centered within the cinematic frame, filling the majority of the screen for the entire duration of the film. While its tidy meshing with the screen is withheld because of the odd temporality of the film, when the shoulder is still, as it is for most of the film, it acquires a powerful visual intensity and attraction, not unlike the intensity achieved in Childs’s Screen Test films, simply because the viewer is aware that this filmed body has the potential to move, could move at any moment without any regard for directing or carrying along any viewer’s investments. 55 The stillness that is insisted upon by the frozen unmoving shoulder before the moving camera becomes a display of bodily
55 For frame enlargements from the Screen Tests shot of Childs, as well as descriptions of the films, see Callie Angell, Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The Films of Andy Warhol, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One (New York: Abrams, 2006), 51, 53.
agency and power, suggesting the presence of a living body moving along with the camera that offers a distinctly different relationship than a body moving for the camera. The slightest movements of the shoulder thus make the cinematic picture throb and pulse, seemingly for its own sake. Without any indication that the shoulder is responding to a change in its environmental situation or to the touch of another body by the choice of framing, the shoulder is freed from any need to motivate narrative progression. The nearly indescribable movements of the muscles and flesh of the shoulder that come only near the end of the film and serve as symbolic climax to the film, leave this screened body part available to any number of undirected and visual attentions and pleasures of the viewer by creating an animated screen that denies the typical projections onto the female body that tend to accompany narrative film. The dullness, ordinariness, and emptiness that is suggested by the static framing of the film which remains unaltered for the nearly 4-minute duration, the rather plain striped tanktop Childs is wearing (which recalls the striped sailor shirts that both Warhol and Edie Sedgwick, as well as other Factory associates including Jill Johnston, were wearing at the time), the lack of gender markers, and the reduction of the movement to a brief, simple gesture all serve to heighten the potential promise of warmth and intimacy inherent in a relationship of the shoulder’s gorgeously goosepimpled flesh (once-there) with the viewer’s own (in the here-and-now). In this film of a dancers’ most subtle movement, the time of the film moving before the viewer
becomes a suturing force, rather than the presence of any gendered body or any sense of a narrative progression on the part of the director. We are asked to be interested, to become engaged, to direct our attention, simply by the presence and attention of a film camera, which appears to have done more work than the largely still shoulder before it. This is accomplished in part by the film’s subversion of certain performance directives that typically structure films of dance. Instead of placing the body in front of the camera with the dancer directing her look and body toward the cameraman and the implied audience, or of having a montage of spaces (creating a sense of a fantastical voyage through which the spectators might hope to be carried along by the labored movements of the dancer), the shoulder becomes the center of attention and we watch as it gives the negative space surrounding it form when it moves, as it moves. In this way the film might be understood as a re-presentation of what the dancer’s body knows and intimately feels—that it is her physical movement in and through space that creates the aesthetic form of the dance by embodied, effortful acts. The ways the film is staged and the temporal drag it performs allow the shoulder of Childs to becomes a theater of matter unto itself. The shoulder proceeds and recedes, emerges and withdraws in its simple flexing and in doing so reverses our usual sense of positive and negative space, of figure and ground. In the moments when the shoulder does move such binary terms are revealed as mutually defining and neither is allowed to take precedence over the other. The space that immediately surrounds the shoulder is revealed as neither entirely interior nor exterior, but as lying
somewhere in between, perhaps in a space that is necessarily constituted through a persistent present-ness that the film seems to be performing along with it. And this ability for a part of the body to become at once both active and then passive, to consume space and then to be consumed by it, imparts to the film a heightened sense of possibility and erotic charge for the viewer. The viewer is allowed to witness in subtle detail the connection of movement that ushers from deep within an individual and unknowable body moving outward to become an image, a surface, and as such this movement suggests the possibility of rethinking embodied subjectivity, as not an either/or of lived embodiment verses image, but rather as a dialectical relationship, a mutually defining and ongoing relationship where embodied experience and its representation do not come into existence without the other. The three works completed by Warhol in various media that I have discussed in this chapter all approach the act of artistic creation as performative intervention. All, in different ways, enact and perhaps ask the viewer to enact what I am calling a persistent present-ness, and all significantly demonstrate Warhol’s own long engagement with the artistic medium of dance. I have been drawn to these works and to adopting an approach that might elucidate their connections more fully for a few reasons: First, more scholarly attention needs to be devoted to thematic continuities in Warhol’s work which transcend medium-specificity as well as firm distinctions between fine art and popular culture. Without treading on to more intermedia and interdisciplinary terrain we continue to leave under-examined Warhol’s rather fluid negotiations of these in-between spaces and Warhol’s intimate familiarity with and
traversal of several underground cultural spaces (which in the 1950s–60s significantly tended to be occupied by women as well as non-heteronormative men). In this way we will also leave unarticulated insights about the political potentials, as well as some very real limits of Warhol’s work—most significantly how his work may have participated in opening up alternative trajectories for contemporary art and possible new models of artistic subjectivity by unfolding new terrains rather than insisting on ripping open the fabric connecting one historical moment to the next, one culture to its subcultures, or one body to another. These works by Warhol suggest a significant turn toward interrogating the art object’s integrity, its “presentness” to include the subjective conditions of its existence. In doing so these works helped to transform the production of art as demonstrating a presumed universal phenomenological presence of the body and the art object into an opportunity to interrogate the production of sexual difference. Throughout his career, Warhol kept returning to past material, past themes, past moments, marking his passages through time and retracing those passages over and over again while acknowledging that each return would never reveal an original thing, gender, person, or relationship that could remain unaltered. This turning back was not an attempt to return to an original or true presence, but rather an acknowledgement that all of the memories buried within his self and his own extensive and ever-expanding archives were available to be reworked only through a kind of double take, one that acknowledges that where he is at any one moment carries within it where he has been before, while also directing where he might go
next. In these ways Warhol’s process of recycling is best understood not merely as a reflection of the operations of capitalism’s retro-stylings or of personal creative exhaustions, but as a reflexive approach, a labored practice of continually and subtly reframing in order to bring a new relationship of the past to bear on the present and to anticipate the future. This temporal double-taking or stuttering practice is revealed across his life’s work: in the early blotted line drawings, in the screen-printed paintings, in the staging of his Dance Diagram paintings, in his experiments with “dragging” time in the early silent films, as well as in his recycling of images from the 1960s in his work of the 1970s and 1980s, and even in the stitched photographs he completed toward the end of his life. In all these examples Warhol acknowledges the creative act itself always as a reiterative process and a carrying through, as well as an opportunity for historical specificity and individual cultural agency. It is this idea, which places Warhol’s work in the most intimate conversation with another performative genre of art production during the 1950s and 1960s—dance—and which I believe is his most significant legacy for contemporary art today. In my estimation, Warhol often received hostile attacks from art critics of the 1960s and beyond, in part because his works refuse to rehearse the conventional forms of “presentness” traditionally associated with the work of art. And it is this undermining of the idea presentness, through his practices of persistent present-ness, that suggests that the relationship of the viewer to the art object premised on the implicit “presentness” of the art object, was shifting to one in which there was an increasing conceptual acceptance and emphasis of the vulnerable materiality of the art
object, as well as the performative aspects of works of art themselves, a characteristic that also typified the “process art” of some artists of the late 1960s. 56 The hyphen in present-ness that I have used in describing Warhol’s works connotes a linkage, but never a complete sense of a connection of the present experience of the viewer to the former presence of the artist. Such present-ness in the work of art thus does not eclipse the presence of a material past, nor the present embodied reality of the viewer, but rather draws attention to the fact that these present-nesses are always in mutually defining dialogue and negotiation with one another as they emerge within the material parameters of cultural discourses and the sanctioned spaces of cultural enunciation. Warhol’s work calls attention to how the embodied knowledge each of us carries and understands (either those most private psychic wounds that we carry with us or the more collective remembrances of dances, performances, or communal rituals) are realized, mediated and negotiated in real physical spaces of representation (in culturally recognized frames, stages, screens, or even in what Warhol referred to as the “television box”) that are incapable of perfectly re-presenting or fully accommodating embodied praxis, what performance theorist Diana Taylor refers to as
This insistence on a materiality that is sensed but not entirely intelligible bears some relationship to the idea of the index as it has been theorized in relation to avant-garde art by Rosalind Krauss. In her “Notes on the Index” (1977) Krauss defines the index as the “type of sign which arises as the physical manifestation of a cause” and proposes that “traces, imprints, and clues” are examples. She continues on to distinguish those types of indexes, which culturally code a natural phenomenon, from the index as it is expressed in avant-garde art, which remains culturally uncoded. Rosalind E. Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Part 2,” (1977) reprinted in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and other Modernist Myths (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 211. The difference in Warhol’s work that distinguishes or turns from Krauss’s understanding of the index, is, I would argue, that Warhol insists on flirting with certain modes of cultural-coding just enough to allow viewers to recognize that coding as a construction rather than a natural or universal phenomenon.
“repertoires.” 57 Repertoires for Taylor refer to those non-reproducible acts that tend to be thought of as ephemeral and that enact embodied knowledge. For Taylor, the knowledge that is contained in the repertoire requires living bodies to be present for transmission, and changes over time, constantly translating choreographies of meaning from one group of cultural performers to another. Unlike the archive, where objects are presumed to be composed of enduring materials and their meanings supposedly remain stable and unchangeable, by its very nature the repertoire is a system of knowledge where meaning is always interpreted, performed, and impartial. By persistsently drawing attention to the realities of the incommensurabilities between the repertoires of our cultural lives and the cultural representations that are archived, Warhol makes space within his practices and within his various bodies of works that traverse the boundaries of a number of different media frames, for “multiple forms of embodied acts that are always present, though in a constant state of again-ness.” 58 Warhol intimately understood that the gaps between our representations and our embodied knowledge. But he also understood that this did not mean the performances of those embodied knowledges necessarily disappeared. His works demonstrate that those knowledges leave traces that are available to be known elsewhere and through differently embodied praxes enacted again. The body itself— his own and his audiences—could become both an aesthetic medium and a repository for storing and transmitting cultural knowledge. 57
Diana Taylor, “Acts of Transfer,” in The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003), 1–53. 58