He was the magus of pop. He debased high art -- 5,000 years of sublime visions and shimmering varnishes -- and reduced it to a commodity. With a sleight of hand, Andy Warhol redefined the boundaries of painting, sculpture, and film, bending them to serve the purpose of his vision. Taking its subject from comic books, tabloids, Hollywood publicity shots, and supermarket aisles, Pop Art, with Warhol at the forefront and his Factory at its nexus, broke through the entrenched avant-garde of Abstract Expressionism, and reinvented pop culture.
Beneath the deceptively simple surface of his silkscreens, the old hierarchies of art collapsed. The assembly-line effect of his "machine-made" images allowed Warhol to fix the viewer's gaze on mass culture, closing the gap between art and life, and redirecting the artist's awareness outward: to the teeming, exciting, vulgar new world of sixties America. Warhol would take from pop culture and pop culture would take from Warhol. But who was the man behind the public pose? The Factory was driven by sexual experimentation and the obsessive pursuit of beauty, but the figure at its center somehow remained apart. His inherent discomfort with physical intimacy and his perpetual place outside the art establishment meant that Warhol would observe but never engage, that he wanted to be seen, but was never discovered. At long last, as a result of extensive new interviews and insight from those who knew him best, the inherited myth of Warhol -- fraught with contradictions -- is disentangled from the man he truly was.
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