One line gets a big laugh at Guild Hall's production of Red, the play screenwriter John Logan wrote about the painter Mark Rothko: in his studio, superbly created on the John Drew Theater stage, Rothko (Victor Slezak) pontificates to his new assistant (Christian Scheider) about the empty soul of commercial art. In a hundred years, he says, no one will think the work of Andy Warhol of any importance. If the play is to be believed, Rothko was indeed a small-minded man, competitive with Jackson Pollock in abstract expressionism, deriding Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol, and others in the pop genre. The play's occasion is a commission that will make him a lot of money, to create art for The Four Seasons, a new restaurant in Philip Johnson's Seagram's building. In fact, in its rotation of art, East Hampton's Roy Nicholson's work has graced the Four Seasons walls, to be replaced this past year by Robert Indiana's. As directed by Stephen Hamilton, in Red, Rothko's conflict about this commercial endeavor vs. his artistic integrity is high stakes, as is his generosity as a human being.
In fact, now years after his untimely demise, Andy Warhol is celebrated again at Guild Hall. This past weekend, Bob Colacello read from Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, his memoir of Factory days. The reissue of this insider view from 1990, three years after Warhol's death comes as Warhol's reputation as an artist has been re-evaluated, his prices soaring, the Elvises, Flowers, Marilyns and Maos auctioned and catalogued and revered. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the genius master-minding of fame, the artistic value in what was derided as commercial, and the iconic personalities, featuring Sylvia Miles, Paul Morrissey, Fran Lebowitz, Brigid Berlin, Mick Jagger, Diane von Furstenberg, and Paulette Goddard, among the many names dropped in these pages, Holy Terror is a fascinating record of an art era American Dream.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.