• Michael Dooley

Andy Warhol’s Magazine Career, from Raggedy to Riches

Alexey Brodovitch had the eye. Beginning in the 1930s Harper’s Bazaar’s art director became famous for his ability to look through contact sheets and know precisely what images to choose, where to crop, and arrange to produce highly elegant and refined pages and spreads. And he’s since come to be considered American publication design’s most innovative and skilled practitioner.

One of his freelancers in the 1950s was a struggling, unkempt graphic artist nicknamed Raggedy Andy. This up-and-comer produced 75-plus jobs for Harper’s Bazaar, first under Brodovitch and then Henry Wolf, Bea Feitler, and Ruth Ansel. And he won plenty of awards. And he went even further than that.

Cano cover, November 1948. © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Andy Warhol had the eye. In the early 1960s, the Pope of Pop Art was famous for his ability to look through the glut of recent print media and know precisely what images of a celebrity, consumer product, electric chair, and dead president’s wife to choose, crop, and arrange to produce silkscreens that devastatingly depict a decayed American culture. And he’s since come to be considered America’s most important fine artist.

But Warhol’s silver-studded golden age was relatively brief. By the early 1970s he was primarily hacking out sure-fire product for profit, to decorate the walls of the rich and famous. If you’re interested in more admirable work that helps chart the path of his original success, It’d be smart to study his formative, Brodovitch-era commercial art career. One of the most outstanding, and newly available, resources at your disposal is a huge hardcover, slipcased catalogue raisonné from Prestel, titled Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Magazine Work.

Vogue, page 24, September 15, 1957. © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The most significant and substantive of this material span from 1948 to 1965. The earliest example reproduced, a cover for a Carnegie Tech student journal drawn in his frequently used David Stone Martin-influenced, splotched line, already demonstrates his serial image fixation.

We see Warhol’s start in fashion with Alex Lieberman’s Glamour, with charming, whimsical “Success is…” sketches. Then it’s on to shoe and accessory drawings, feature illustrations, and hundreds of other commissions. For Wolf at Esquire. And Bradbury Thompson at Mademoiselle. Cipe Pineles and Art Kane at Seventeen. Otto Storch at McCall’s. And all known pieces are luxuriously reproduced, and often generously-sized so you can easily absorb and enjoy the art within its proper editorial context.

Also included are his ads, such as a page for Schiaparelli gloves that ran in Vogue, dominated with a bright, bold pink unicorn because why not? There’s a pencil drawing which was used a Champion Paper promo piece that appeared in Print’s March/April 1962 issue. There are his low-end jobs as well, like a dachshund sketch for a Sunday newspaper supplement. And there’s much of edgy interest as he transitioned from magazines to galleries and museums, such as a 1965 Thermofax cover for Fuck You: a Magazine of the Arts. The last few dozen pages are merely documentation of his bland, uninspired 1970s and 1980s art slapped onto, uh, repurposed for Vogue, Sportswear Jeans International, and whatever.

This Week Magazine cover, December 13, 1959. © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Paul Maréchal’s explanatory essay and notes are eminently readable and provide important expository information. However, I did spot a minor factual flaw. He states, “In 1967 Warhol designed another complete issue of a magazine, this time for Film Culture, using portraits taken in a photo booth for the cover and inside pages.” The problem here is that Fluxus founder and ringleader George Maciunas actually designed that issue, as well as the title type. And, he was clearly given “design and production” credit on the inside cover, not included in the book but reproduced here. And he masterfully handled all the design from front to back, and with the same aesthetic and witty, playful attitude he’d used on Film Culture’s previous issue, devoted to Leo Kuleshov.

Warhol is obviously responsible for the imagery used on the cover and opening spreads. But the book fails to detail whether or how he had any further involvement, or to even mention Maciunas. It’s true that this issue was devoted to Warhol’s druggy, spiritually decadent – and groundbreaking – underground films. And Macunias artfully establishes this fact with his treatment of Edie Sedgwick, Baby Jane Holzer, and three other Factory superstars, presented in variations and gradual stages of dot deterioration. It even reflects Warhol’s later pixel portraits printed in a 1986 computer magazine and shown in the book and below. At the end of the sequence Nico’s vacant visage is enlarged to the degree that her essence is one step away from total obliteration into lava lamp blobs.

Nevertheless, Andy Warhol: The Complete Commissioned Magazine Work remains a valuable and enriching visual chronicle – particularly from a design and illustration perspective – of the artist’s creative development.

Film Culture pp. 1 to 11, Summer 1967 (no. 45). © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Amiga World cover and pp. 20, 21, January–February 1986. © 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Related posts:

  1. Andy Warhol’s attraction to Herbert Bayer’s lips

  2. Politics of Pop: Warhol’s Working Class SuperHero

  3. The Pleasures, Politics, and Proto-Feminisms of Pop Art

  4.  Pop Art, Politics, and Critiques of Contemporary Culture

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