RSVIP: Warhol Lives Through New Photo Exhibit
Andy Warhol and his arty, edgy world rises like a phoenix in a comprehensive exhibit of vintage photographs which opened on Saturday, June 5, at the Eric Firestone Gallery, 4 Newtown Lane in East Hampton, New York. Entitled "Warhol: Dylan to Duchamp," the gallery's inaugural exhibit features images that stretch from Warhol's Silver Factory days, to the set of his film "Lonesome Cowboys," to the VIP lounge at Studio 54.
By the front window of the gallery, two monitors display screen tests filmed by Warhol, one starring a youthful Bob Dylan and the other, an ancient Marcel Duchamp. In an endless tight headshot, Duchamp wears a checkered shirt, and his white hair is pushed back. The father of Dada sips from a glass, and his eyes dart to the side uncomfortably as the unceasing lens takes in every wrinkle.
One of the great discoveries by Firestone Gallery, which has another outpost in Tucson, Arizona, is a wall of work by Bob Broder, who happened to be the stringer for the Arizona Star assigned to the set of Warhol's movie "Lonesome Cowboy" in 1968. Broder's contact sheets and negatives sat in a file cabinet for 40 years until rediscovered by San Francisco photographer Eric Kroll, who helped to guest-curate the museum-like Firestone exhibit. "I met with Broder," Kroll told Luxist at the exhibit. "He showed me one photo, and it blew my mind."
A set of Broder's contact sheets on display were priced at $50,000. An iconic image of Warhol in a ten-gallon hat was going for $8,000. And a shot of actor Taylor Mead, on set in Arizona, $3,000.
A priceless Mead attended the opening in person. "'Lonesome Cowboys' was my happiest movie," said the already tiny actor, crumpled by the decades. Perched on a metal rocking chair at the center of the gallery, he held a flask of tequila borrowed from Kroll. "They were making a Hollywood movie in the same town," added Mead. "And I remember one of the Hollywood cowboys saying, 'We should crush those people.'"
This was, of course, 1968, 28 years before the advent of "Brokeback Mountain," and Warhol's gay-themed cowboy feature was decades away from being understood or accepted in Arizona.
New York real-estate heiress and art collector Beth DeWoody, who loaned a wall of photographs to the show, not for sale, spoke of her passion for owning pictures of Warhol. "He's the ultimate poseur and exhibitionist," she said. "He loved to photograph, and he loved to be photographed."
"I love this Editta Sherman picture," she said, "because it shows Andy taking a picture with his own Polaroid camera. This one is by Cecil Beaton; here is Andy [in a Santa costume] with Truman Capote by Mick Rock."
Paul Judelson, of Manhattan's I-20 Gallery, favored an early color photo by Bob Adelman of Warhol shopping at Gristede's. Warhol is pushing a loaded shopping cart. "We see all the products at the time and where he may have gotten the idea to do the Brillo boxes," he said.
"Most of this work is very approachable," offered Eric Firestone, the owner of the gallery, who co-curated the show. The least expensive shot? "$1500. Most images are under $10,000," he said. A 120-page catalog of the exhibit has a price of $55.
Some early pictures in the show were taken by Charles Steiner, who photographed Andy and Edie at the ICA Gallery in Philadelphia in 1965. "I was in college at the University of Pennsylvania," said Steiner. "It was a party. They got a little freaked out, so they went upstairs to a balcony. You can see that in my pictures." While Steiner doesn't recall overcrowding at the fete, his pictures support Warhol's version of the event in "Popism," that he and Sedgwick were nearly crushed by their newfound fame.
Photographer Anton Perich, a survivor of Studio 54, now keeps his fluffy white coif on the long side. "I was there every night," said the photographer, surrounded by images of a gregarious Warhol. But Parich presented a more intimate, shy view of Warhol. "Andy was really nice to me when I came to New York from Croatia via Paris, but he was very self-conscious," said Parish. " . . . he was always reluctant to have his picture taken."
The Eric Firestone Gallery will exhibit "Warhol: Dylan to Duchamp" in East Hampton through mid-July.