afterimage: Screenprints of Andy Warhol

Director's essay  |  Curator's essay  |  The Factory  | works


Gerard Malanga Candy Darling c1971 Collection of the National Gallery of AustraliaGerard Malanga Candy Darling c1971 Collection of the National Gallery of Australia more detail

Warhol and The Factory

The first ‘Factory’ was established on 231 East 47th Street, New York in June 1963. Originally a fire station, some walls and ceiling arches of the premises were covered in silver foil, while other walls and furniture were spray-painted silver. The Factory became a social and artistic hub in New York for young misfits, avant-garde writers, artists, musicians, curators, actors and hangers-to join in on cultural adventures. It was the place famous for its various artistic projects, and just having fun. Poet Gerard Malanga for instance became an assistant helping with the screenprinting. Curator Henry Geldzahler, who enthusiastically embraced Pop Art, was another who regularly attended. Later, the musician Lou Reed and the band Velvet Underground frequented the studio.

The premises of the first of three ‘Factories’ were used for screenprinting Warhol’s art and later for filmmaking. In the first instance Warhol pursued a career in 16mm filmmaking, using a fixed camera with no soundtrack and no editing. The resultant films, such as Sleep, Blow Job, Eat, Haircut and Kiss were unconventional, frequently chaotic and sometimes mesmerising. They could also be astonishingly mind-numbing. Empire, for example, was a seven hour silent film featuring of the Empire State Building, which according to the artist, was ‘the star!’ viewed from one vantage point from 6.00 pm through the night until early morning. The aim of the film, according to Warhol was ‘to see time go by. A couple of planes went by and a light went out and that’s all that happened’.

Richard Avedon Andy Warhol, artist, New York City 1969 Collection of the National Gallery of AustraliaRichard Avedon Andy Warhol, artist, New York City 1969 Collection of the National Gallery of Australia more detail

After first meeting Paul Morrissey in 1965, Warhol began collaborating with this film maker, who increasingly took over the direction of the Warhol films. These later productions had more of a script, some kind of narrative and were more complex. The films were shot using different viewpoints, different locations and had a sound track. A stable of ‘stars’, mimicking the Hollywood system, emerged including the male ‘romantic lead’ Joe Dallesandro and the cross-dressing ‘movie queen’ Candy Darling.

In late 1967 Warhol learnt that the Factory building on East 47th Street was to be demolished. So over the ensuing months a new Factory was located, which was bigger and more-business like in appearance. This reflected Warhol’s new interests in becoming a successful ‘business artist’. Warhol moved his studio to 33 Union Square West. It was here that Interview, Warhol’s trend-setting magazine catering for and featuring the famous, was produced. It was also here in 1968 that Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanis the disgruntled writer/actor and sole member of S.C.U.M. (Society for Cutting Up Men). Warhol almost died. The ravages of this shooting can be seen in the photographic portrait of the artist by Richard Avedon. ‘I’m so scarred’, Warhol remarked in his characteristically Warholian way, ‘I look like a Dior dress.’

In1974 the third and final ‘Factory’, or rather, ‘Warhol’s Studio’, as he now preferred to call it, was established at 860 Broadway. There it remained until his death in 1987.

Jane Kinsman
Senior Curator International Prints, Drawings & Illustrated Books