Exhibit | Warhol by the Book

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), In the Bottom of My Garden, New York, ca. 1956. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Contribution the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

“I just do art because I’m ugly and there’s nothing else for me to do,” Andy Warhol said. His dedication to the creation of beauty in both the glamorous and the commonplace forever changed the course of art, culture, and communication. He worked in both commercial and fine arts, always able to build a bridge between these two worlds and he used the book as a vehicle throughout his career. In celebration of his works, the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, presents Warhol by the Book, a four-decade retrospective on view now through May 5, 2016.

Featuring more than 130 objects dating back to his student days, the exhibition includes the only surviving project from the 1940s. It also features a remarkable collection of drawings, screen prints, photographs, self-published books, children’s books, photography books, text-based books, unique books, archival material; and his much-sought-after dust jacket designs. To call Warhol prolific would be an understatement. He simply was a one-man factory who aptly advised, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Andy Warhol (1928–1987). “So Sweet,” 1950s, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andy Warhol (1928–1987). “So Sweet,” 1950s, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

Among the most charming works in the show is the “Books of Friendship” section, created between 1953 and 1960. While making dust jackets for major publisher, Warhol began a self-publishing venture of his own. With titles like A Is an Alphabet and Love Is a Pink Cake, Warhol produced small editions of 100 copies made as collaborations with minor writers who were close friends. The books were exhibited at Serendipity 3 in those early years, and gave away copies to promote his talents to business associates.

As his career propelled into stratospheric heights, Warhol never left the book behind. No longer having to rely on self-publishing, he began producing in wider categories, authoring Andy Warhol’s Index (Book), the first, and arguably only, mass-market artist’s publication, which was intended to be a “total experience.” High-contrast photographs of Warhol’s superstars and members of the Velvet Underground were paired with unconventional elements, including a flexi-disc recording, disappearing ink, and a three-dimensional object tied to the book with a string—resulting in a game-changing artist’s book.

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Three More Novels of Ronald Firbank: Vainglory; Inclinations; Caprice by Ronald Firbank, New York: New Directions, 1951. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Museum Purchase.

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Three More Novels of Ronald Firbank: Vainglory; Inclinations; Caprice by Ronald Firbank, New York: New Directions, 1951. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Museum Purchase.

He also went on to produce text-based books, giving us at times keen and other times obscured insights into his mind. A: A Novel, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol’s Exposures, America, and his posthumously-published diaries bring us deep inside his world and process. His ability to distill ideas to their essence and observe the direction in which culture was going was intuitive, and with his books Warhol was able to map this out in both images and words. Warhol by the Book is a marvelous journey through the heart and mind of a true bibliophile.

All artwork: © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.