Repetition has a religious element too. Warhol was a devout Catholic, though eccentrically so. The rosary is repetition, the liturgy is repetition, the visual iconography of the Catholic Church depends on repetition. It is worth remembering that for most of history most of humanity has been both religious and illiterate. The image/icon was everything – and recognition comes through repetition. Warhol’s repetitions are a way of reminding us that indifference (seen it all a million times) becomes difference when we are able to stop skimming and start seeing. The surface gives way to what is under the surface.
Warhol was gay, though eccentrically so. The self-conscious self-parody of gay culture is present in Andy’s art. The drama, the glamour, the So what?, is both defence and defiance. Warhol was part of the first wave invasion of gay culture into the mainstream. Many artists are gay – it’s not a coincidence. Creativity happens at an angle. Warhol thought of himself as the odd man out. He was out when it was dangerous to be so. He looked unusual. He felt weird and he longed to belong. Art is only autobiography in so much as the awkward self at an angle is always in there. But. The grit is not the pearl.
Advertising always starts with the same question: What’s the angle? As soon as you know what the angle is, it’s a straight line. Straight line. Bottom line. Warhol understood all of that. But. Look again. The intense self-consciousness of the image. The play. The So what? The look of being looked at is what we know from celebrities and superstars. Warhol invented that look –and saw through it to the other side.
“For the roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.”