Andy Warhol (Penguin Lives)

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9780670030002: Andy Warhol (Penguin Lives)
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The author of The Queen's Throat probes beneath the mystique and deliberate affectations of this century's quintessential pop artist to reveal the often troubled but always brilliant man behind the public persona, in an original portrait of Andy Warhol.

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Review:

Do a faithful rendering of a soup can, a silk-screened photograph of a starlet, or a film of an empty chair constitute works of art? They do, poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum ably demonstrates, if their author was Andy Warhol.

Warhol, who once observed that in time everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, himself earned early fame "as artist and whirlwind, as impresario and irritant." That fame endured over a career that stretched over four decades, as does his influence, even in some unexpected quarters: "Martha Stewart owes a lot to Andy Warhol," Koestenbaum volunteers. But Warhol, Koestenbaum argues, was much more than an artist. He helped shape the popular culture of his day; he launched the careers of dozens of musicians and artists; he revolutionized interior design, making his studio, the Factory, "an ambient artwork"; and he used art as a way of exploring matters of life, death, sexuality, and group behavior. He was, in short, a self-made phenomenon, an odd American success story.

The price for that success was high, Koestenbaum writes: the controversies Warhol inspired did not always serve him well, his associates had a habit of dying young, and he himself survived an assassination attempt that gave his later work an air of being "bulletins from the afterlife." This slender biography tells all those stories very well, and students of art and contemporary culture will learn much from it. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Wayne Koestenbaum is the author of The Queen's Throat, a groundbreaking study of sexuality and the human voice, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist; Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon; and Cleavage: Essays on Sex, Stars and Aesthetics. An accomplished poet whose works include Ode to Anna Moffo and, most recently, The Milk of Inquiry, he is professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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