Andy Warhol loved America, warts and all, and America is his homage, his love letter, to it, to us, to US.
I’ve long been a fan of Warhol’s art. From the Brillo Boxes to the silkscreens, to his collaborations with Jean-Michele Basquiat, I’m a fan of it all. I also have some interest in photobooks with “America” or “American” or some variant in the title—American Prospects, American Surfaces, The Americans, etc.—and in photobooks that employ text in some way—and everyday was overcast being the standout, so far.
So when I found out there was a book of Andy Warhol’s photographs, called ‘America‘ and featuring Warhol’s take on America, well, I just had to have it.
Question: Do I (does anyone) care what a famous, dead artist think about the USA or its citizens or its ethos/pathos? Eh. Not really, but sorta, maybe. His observations are those of a rather wealthy New York socialite, simultaneously learned and vapid, prescient and obvious, aware and oblivious.
I appreciate his words, I suppose. That is, my own thoughts about America (here nearing the third decade of the Twenty First Century, nearly 35 years after America was first published) are similarly vapid, obvious, oblivious, and so I perhaps gain some learning, prescience, awareness from Warhol’s writing, maybe.
The photography is largely snapshots of 80s famous people of all sorts. Ronald Reagan is there. John Denver too. Liza Minnelli. Andre the Giant. Chippendale’s Dancers. There are some blurry car-window landscapes, some vacation-looking snaps, some shop window displays and other randomness, and maybe there are a few anonymous everyperson-types, but it’s mostly the rich and famous, and Warhol was definitely a painter/advertising man.
If you’re a Warhol fan, I recommend sticking with his painting and sculpture. His photography is fine-enough, but then so is mine and I’m a total hack. That said, I picked up this copy cheap from The Strand. I think I got it shipped for about $10, and it’s probably worth that.
At one point, Warhol writes “And the real America is wherever you happen to be in the U.S. when you start wondering about the question.” As the 2020 election season continues, and as fractured as we are, politically speaking, we would do well to remember that, I think. I don’t know if it will help our political situation, but it’s good to remember that rural Oklahoma, Atlanta suburb, and New York City are all equally America. So Andy Warhol’s America is really just as acceptable as Stephen Shore’s Surfaces or Joel Sternfeld’s Prospects or my poor attempts at snapshottery. But while Shore and Sternfeld made incredible books/exhibitions, Warhol’s is something else, really, and ymmv.