Out of circulation for much of the 1970s and ’80s, and gradually restored and reconsidered since, Andy Warhol’s films remain a singular theatrical experience. In tandem with the retrospective Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again, this series invites a closer look at the stylistic arc of Warhol’s prolific film practice from 1963–1968.
Warhol is known for testing the medium’s boundaries, beginning with his static, shoot-until-the-film-runs-out approach to minimalism (Kiss, Eat). His 1964 film, Empire, the longest and perhaps most ambitious in this style, clocks in at over eight hours. Many of Warhol’s films materialized at the Factory, his studio and gathering place for a cast of underground actors, artists, and personalities (his so-named “Superstars”). Created at a time when queer life was policed, and New York underground cinema faced censorship, Warhol’s films often exhibit queer expressions of gender fluidity, sexuality, and desire as well as provocative, sometimes explicit subject matter (Camp, Vinyl, My Hustler). Paralleling his visual art, films like Harlot and Hedy underline Warhol’s fascination with celebrity. By 1968, the artist had ventured west to make his own Hollywood-style features while retaining a camp sense of humor (Lonesome Cowboys, San Diego Surf). This series concludes with the rarely shown Sunset, an unfinished film connected in form to Warhol’s early meditative minimalism, but this time gazing at a different kind of star.
Header image: Andy Warhol, Camp, 1965 (still); image courtesy The Andy Warhol Museum