Thursday, October 15, 2015

"The Trip: Andy Warhol's Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure" by Deborah Davis

ISBN: 976-1-4767-0351-0 Atria Books

Andy Warhol, is blessed with having a lot of good books on him.  In many ways, I think he's the people's artist.  I like his artwork, but I'm not a huge fan.  On the other hand, he is really an artist that is not about taste, but more about production, vision, and how an outcast can influence a culture.  And no doubt, he is probably one of the most influential Americans ever.  Deborah Davis wrote a fascinating book on a specific car trip, Warhol took in 1963, with Taylor Mead and Wynn Chamberlain as co-drivers and Gerard riding in the back with Andy.  From NYC to Los Angeles (Santa Monica to be specific).   Or as Warhol says about Los Angeles, it's all Hollywood to him.

Warhol came at the right time, and of course, at the right place.  He had his second one-man show at the Ferus Gallery, and also started working on a film "Tarzan and Jane Regained... Sort Of.  Which featured Dennis Hopper, Taylor Mead (as Tarzan, of course), Wallace Berman, Naomi Levine as Jane, and Tosh Berman (me) as Boy.  Assisted by the incredibly talented Gerard Malanga, Warhol out of the blue decided to do a feature length film then and there.  Inspired by a freeway ride in the valley, they saw an exit saying "Tarzana," therefore why not do a Tarzan film.  There are many opinions about this film, and most people told me that they hated it - but alas, it is the ultimate portrait of Los Angeles art scene in 1963.  To me, it's a home movie.  Whatever it's art or a great film, that is not so important to me.   Warhol also went to the Marcel Duchamp retrospective at Pasadena as well.    1963 was a fab year, till Kennedy was killed in November.  Then things turned to shit.  But, this book is about things before the shit.

Although the foundation of the book is about the car trip from New York to "Hollywood," it is really an introduction to Andy Warhol's aesthetic and his social world at the time.  This is not a detailed critique of Warhol's work, but more of an appreciation of him but also the world of New York and Los Angeles art world of that time and place.  One also gets information about the Ford Falcon, and how it was designed to be the people's car.   Davis is a very good writer, and she has a grasp or a hold on the nature of Pop Art, and its by-products such as graphic design, billboards, and even commercial labels.  In my opinion, Warhol wasn't the first 20th century artist to understand the nature of the 'visual' world of advertising and the importance of public images seen privately or in the cushioned world of "fine art."   But he was clearly the figure that people attached themselves to - due to a mixture of his personality, visual appearance, and on many levels - his straight ahead approach to the world around him as an artist -which I think, people picked up on as well.  Warhol speaks to the masses.  And he did so without dumbing the issues or his vision down.

- Tosh Berman
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