cover image Warhol


Blake Gopnik. Ecco, $45 (976p) ISBN 978-0-06-229839-3

Art, commerce, homosexual camp, and the 1960s counterculture were all blithely blenderized by one man’s genius, according to this sweeping biography of pop art master Andy Warhol. Art critic and New York Times contributor Gopnik dives deep into Warhol’s oeuvre, from the famous pieces that mirrored mass-produced imagery—paintings of Campbell Soup cans and Brillo boxes, screen prints of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe—and his semiprurient, militantly unwatchable avant-garde films (Sleep comprised five hours of footage of a naked man sleeping) to his late urine-on-canvas phase. But Warhol’s greatest image was himself, and Gopnik’s fascinating narrative does full justice to the silver-wigged, pixie-ish, satirically vapid provocateur (“[e]verybody’s plastic—but I love plastic,” he pronounced during a Hollywood sojourn) and to the maelstrom of drugs, partying, and crazed excess at the Factory, his New York studio-cum-asylum for artsy eccentrics. One of them, Valerie Solanas, founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men, shot and gravely wounded Warhol—and then asked him to pay her legal bills. Gopnik’s exhaustive but stylishly written and entertaining account is Warholian in the best sense—raptly engaged, colorful, open-minded, and slyly ironic. (“He had become his own Duchampian urinal, worth looking at only because the artist in him had said he was.”) Warhol fans and pop art enthusiasts alike will find this an endlessly engrossing portrait. Photos. (Apr.)