A quick thought on The Andy Warhol Diaries on Netflix

I finally got around to seeing the Andy Warhol Diaries on Netflix, which I’m finding fascinating. Warhol is accused of being banal, superficial, celebrity sucking, money hungry; the work damned for being the campily desirious doodlings of a superficial homosexual etc. Each of those characteristics with a basis individually but collectively at odds with each other. There’ a moment at a gallery opening where a well-dressed clearly well-heeled lady looks with a combination of scorn and disgust at one of the ‘Sex Parts’ paintings he did with Victor Hugo that I think encapsulates these contradictions. How can something so dangerous be banal? What’s the connection between the explicit and rapacious sexuality in those paintings and the celebrity commissions? Wouldn’t such work – so clearly homosexual – affect the year’s taking? He was putting on display what others in this period – Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg — were being more ‘polite’ about; and people were scorning and fleeing. And isn’t highlighting the forbidden and expressing it through camp in itself explosive in this period, the opposite of the banal? The form of the series is fascinating as well, the editing, the voicing, the wonderful home footage. The whole Jed Johnston saga was very affecting. But it’s the unapologetic queerness of the work in mid-century America that really strikes a chord and seems a key.

José Arroyo

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