Journeying from the 1950s, when Warhol was starting to make his way through the New York advertising world, through the height of his career in the 1960s, to the last years of his life in the 1980s, Andy Warhol, Publisher unearths fresh archival material that reveals Warhol’s publications as complex projects involving a tantalizing cast of collaborators, shifting technologies, and a wide array of fervent readers.
Lucy Mulroney shows that whether Warhol was creating children’s books, his infamous “boy book” for gay readers, writing works for established houses like Grove Press and Random House, helping found Interview magazine, or compiling a compendium of photography that he worked on to his death, he readily used the elements of publishing to further and disseminate his art. Warhol not only highlighted the impressive variety in our printed culture but also demonstrated how publishing can cement an artistic legacy.
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One Blue Pussy
An old photograph shows handsome couples sitting at small tables sipping espresso. Potted plants and baskets of citrus fruit make the café feel light, even though it is in a tenement basement. In addition to serving espresso with your choice of nutmeg, whipped cream, or cinnamon, the café Serendipity 3 specialized in "crescent-shaped pecan cookies and even richer pecan pies and tarts" — it was a tiny boutique where you could top off dinner with something sweet. Looking on this scene, I imagine how the whitewashed walls would glow yellow under the Tiffany lampshades. Toward the back of the room, the hands of an enormous antique clock register five to eight.
It was here that Warhol and his friends would gather. Little trays of Dr. Martin's dye would be spread around — pink, blue, yellow, orange, purple, brown — and glasses of water and brushes laid out; then, under the warm glow of antique glass and the smell of cookies, we see Warhol take a handful of prints out of a brown paper bag. He's not as good-looking as the other men. His clothes are crumpled. Patches of pink swollen skin cover his cheeks and forehead. On his nose, which is bulbous like a root vegetable, sits a pair of thick eyeglasses. He's only twenty-six, but, already, he's bald. As he passes around the sheets of paper — each with a drawing printed on it: a kitten, a rabble of butterflies, a pair of cupids — he says something in a whispery, playful voice. Then someone picks up a brush, dips it in the water, dabs it into the pink, and puts down a big wet swash of color onto one of the prints. Someone else puts down some blue. "Oh, I was doing them too carefully, and that's not a part of the way that he works." The paper buckles. The color spills outside the lines. Someone else splashes green onto a different sheet. The men trade pictures, filling in different parts. Laughing. "I was laying the dye on and had a ball." Fingers and shirtsleeves are speckled with color. "I was rather shocked. ... He could be at home doing this himself ... but I was having such a good time."
When it opened in 1954, Serendipity 3 had four tables, sixteen Thonet chairs, and one antique espresso machine. Located at 234 East 58th Street in Manhattan, the café was part of a cluster of spaces on the Upper East Side where Warhol and his friends worked and socialized. Three blocks down from Serendipity 3 was the Hugo Gallery at 26 East 55th Street, which hosted Warhol's first New York art exhibit and whose clientele included Ballet Russes dancers and the readership of Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler's surrealist magazine View. Two blocks up at 223 East 60th Street was the Bodley Gallery, which presented several exhibitions of Warhol's work during the 1950s. Four blocks to the west on 5th Avenue were the upscale shops of Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co., which regularly employed Warhol and his friends to dress windows and design promotional materials. Serendipity 3's three young proprietors — Stephen Bruce, Calvin Holt, and Patch Carradine — cast themselves as the three princes from the fairy tale of Serendip and, through their own discoveries and accidents, ran a chic dessert boutique where window dressers, dancers, and poets could be seen sipping coffee alongside fashion-magazine editors, socialites, and celebrities. Like a stage set inspired by Lewis Carroll is how some described Serendipity 3. It was the perfect place for Warhol to get his start. "Everything was for sale, including the waiters." Open evenings, 5:30 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. Closed Sundays.
The Early Books
It was during these first years in New York City — when Warhol was expanding his circle of gay male friends, creating illustrations of ladies' fashions, and dressing department-store windows — that he also began to publish his own books. By as early as 1952, books served Warhol as a pretext to create collaborative projects with other men and to widen his social and professional networks. At first, the books were aimed at finding a foothold in the children's-book market. They exuded a playful sensibility through simple rhyming narratives and naive illustrations, yet something about them did not quite fit the nursery room. They were campy, coy, and playfully subversive. Warhol's books were a means for him and his friends to communicate publicly, albeit not directly — expressing, recognizing, and creatively envisioning themselves and their desires amid the homophobic culture of the 1950s.
The first book Warhol published was Love Is a Pink Cake (1952), which he made with his friend Ralph T. Ward, a young poet with curly brown hair whom he met through a former Carnegie Tech classmate. Printed on simple blue office paper and staple bound, the book is a modest twenty-six pages. It features poems written by Ward under the pen name Corkie and illustrated by Warhol. On its title page, Cupid holds a flaccid string, rather than an arrow, which dangles above the book's title and byline: "LOVE IS A PINK CAKE by Corkie + Andy." Inside, Ward's rhyming couplets play on notorious love affairs and erotic incompatibilities. For example, of George Sand's relationship with Chopin and the rumors of her lesbian affair with Marie Dorval, Ward writes: "Chopin some say loved George Sand, / He tried but once to hold her hand, / For once was enough; this lesson he learned / If your girl smokes cigars you're apt to be burned." Ward's poem about Jean-Jacques Rousseau spins on his Confessions (1789) by hinting at the predicament of the married gay man: "Mr. and Mrs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau / Loved each other and everyone knew so / But to his wife he never confessed / and who can say Jean-Jacques didn't know best." Another poem suggests the dilemma of coming of age: "Here is a man who was beguiled / when he was a little child / by the author Oscar Wilde / And as he very oddly grew to / maturity, some said they knew to / what his oddity was due to / Oscar Wilde? Why no, his tutor / and his mother's handsome suitor." Warhol and Ward were developing a portfolio of children's books, and Love Is a Pink Cake was one of the first they pitched to publishers, but it also conveyed a more personal message. "Andy had a love affair with me," Ward later told Victor Bockris, "[but] I was never really attracted to him." Thus, "Corkie + Andy" were also ill-fated lovers.
This was not the first time Warhol used a book to express his affection for another man. Earlier that same year, Warhol's debut New York exhibition at the Hugo Gallery presented a suite of book illustrations based on Truman Capote's novel Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). Although the work from this show is now lost, art historians know the exhibition from the two short reviews that were published at the time. In his review for Art Digest, James Fitzsimmons described Warhol's drawings as "fragile impressions" and characterized the work as having "an air of preciosity, of carefully studied perversity. ... At its best it is an art that depends upon the delicate tour de force, the communication of intangibles and ambivalent feelings." Fitzsimmons may not have wanted to explicate it, but what Warhol's exhibition communicated was far from ambivalent. Warhol was obsessed with Capote, and his suite of illustrations for Capote's book was a public love letter that followed up on the actual fan letters he had been sending in the mail. Thus, the exhibition marks, from his earliest days in New York, the conflation of his personal, professional, and artistic desires in a book project, thereby establishing the modus operandi for the seventeen subsequent book projects he would undertake during the next eight years.
In addition to Love Is a Pink Cake, Warhol and Ward collaborated on six other books, only one of which was published. Their second book, A Is an Alphabet (1953), appears superficially innocent while it explores the seriousness of gender, identity, and feelings of abandonment and attraction. In its unbound pages, Warhol's blotted-line drawings are paired with a narrative tinged with loneliness: "A was an albatross / Who when teased by this young man, / Became very cross." "O was an otter / Who slept in the same bed with this young man, / and there never was an odder otter." Ward and Warhol's unpublished books also play on the themes of adolescence and belonging: There Was Snow on the Street and Rain in the Sky (1952) tells the story of two brothers playing inside on a rainy day; The House That Went to Town (1952–53) is a campy rendition of "when the cat's away the mice will play" in which all the furniture in a house decides to go dancing one night; and Mrs. Cook's Children (1952–53) tells the tale of ten brothers and sisters who go pick berries. Warhol and Ward's two other unpublished books are more overtly campy. Their Alphabet of Women (1953) sends up femininity as self-performance in a high-camp mode; in fact, the model for at least one of the women in the book is Warhol's friend dressed in drag. Her caption reads: "M was her mustache removed in our salon." In Velvet the Poodle (1953), Warhol and Ward offer a story of self-acceptance written from the viewpoint of a female poodle:
I was really named for a marvelous drink of champagne & stout called a Black Velvet, which is really my full name, but I use Velvet for short. As things have turned out it has been very appropriate as I have a velvet-like coat (as they say) of hair. ... But perhaps I just grew into my name as personalities such as I have a way of doing. In other words, I no doubt feel "I am Velvet" and never cared about growing a bristly coat as it wasn't the real me anyway.
During the summer of 1953, Warhol and Ward sent Love Is a Pink Cake and A Is an Alphabet to a handful of publishers — including Farrar, Straus & Young; Harcourt, Brace; and Little, Brown. In their submissions, Warhol played with his identity, portraying himself as Miss Andie Warhol, Mr. Andie Warhol, and simply Andie Warhol. But the name changes did not help. Warhol and Ward were not picked up. A letter from Grosset & Dunlap offered yet another rejection. Not much more than two years after Warhol and Ward first met, their collaboration ended.
But Warhol kept on publishing his own books, which would often employ the same wit and camp naïveté as his books with Ward, but they differ in several significant ways. The books were no longer the collaboration between Warhol and one intimate; they were the product of a whole social circle. With the opening of the café Serendipity 3 in 1954, the books also began to be hand colored. Stephen Bruce remembered how Warhol would regularly bring friends to the café to color his prints and books:
He would bring them in, and he would have five or six people with him. He would give them work, art work, to finish. ... [W]eekly he would come in, and, I remember, one time he had a page of butterflies that he had printed or mimeographed, and he had all the people color in all of the butterflies with no direction or anything like that. ... People who were, you know, people who he was involved with, and a lot of them were very attractive, very nice people.
Warhol's coloring parties must have been delightful affairs, and the stories about them suggest that, if his self-published books take up the "flamboyant tone" of camp in their whimsical blotted-line work, tongue-in-cheek narratives, and delicate hand coloring, then Warhol did not produce that aesthetic alone. The collaborative mode of producing these books facilitated a particular kind of discourse that moved beyond the play of double meanings to articulate new forms of affiliation and identification. The colorists became authors too.
Over the next six years, 1954–60, Warhol self-published six more books, all but the last of which included hand-colored pages. 25 Cats Name Sam andOne Blue Pussy (1954) consists of portraits of cats all named Sam, followed by a blue cat with the caption "One Blue Pussy" on the last page of the book. The book's playful repetition of Sams celebrates difference within similarity. À la Recherche du Shoe Perdu (1955) visually rhymes with 25 Cats and consists of portraits of ladies' shoes paired with puns on well-known works of literature, songs, and movies, including "Dial M for Shoe," "My Shoe Is Your Shoe," and "The Autobiography of Alice B. Shoe." In the Bottom of My Garden (1956) referred to Beatrice Lillie's then camp classic "There Are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden." Playing up the innuendo in Lillie's song, the book depicts scenes of putti playing with one another in both innocent and erotic scenarios. Next, Warhol published A Gold Book (1957). Printed on gold-coated paper with pink, lilac, and teal tissue laid between the pages, A Gold Book indulges the sensual in both its content and its materiality. It is dedicated to "Boys filles fruits and flowers shoes tc and ew," referencing both the broader gay subculture to which Warhol belonged, his close friend Ted Carey, and Warhol's then lover Edward Wallowitch, whose photographs were the basis of several of the drawings in the book. Wild Raspberries (1959), coauthored by Warhol's friend Suzie Frankfurt, is a nonsensical cookbook that they tried, unsuccessfully, to sell through Bloomingdales. Holy Cats (1960), a companion to 25 Cats, features a scraggily set of felines drawn by Warhol's mother and printed on colored paper.
While Warhol was busy self-publishing a new book to give to friends and clients each year, he was also working on three extended projects that were never fully realized as books. These are his notorious "Boy Book," "Foot Book," and "Cock Book." The first was presented as an exhibition titled Studies for a Boy Book, which opened at the Bodley Gallery on Valentine's Day 1956. The show consisted of portraits of handsome young men, some of which were decorated with hearts, suggesting (along with the date of the exhibit) that Warhol's "Boy Book" was a tribute to the men whom he found attractive. The conceit of publishing a "boy book" proposed to make this attraction public and, by connection, publicize these men by putting their portraits in print. The "Cock Book" and the "Foot Book" were never presented publicly but existed and circulated only as scandalous proposals. It is unclear which project he started first, but sometime in the 1950s Warhol began trying to access people's feet in order to draw them. Not any old feet would do. Warhol wanted to make a book of drawings of celebrities' feet: Shirley MacLaine's feet, Kim Stanley's feet, Janice Groel's feet, Lena Horne's feet. He tried to use his friends' connections to get to them. One weekend in Philadelphia, he lucked out: "Cecil Beaton was there, and Andy did Cecil Beaton with a rose between his toes." As for his interest in drawing men's genitals, Warhol seemed to have been less picky. Ted Carey explains: "If he met somebody at a party or something, and he thought they were fascinating or interesting, he'd say, 'Oh, ah, let me draw your cock. I'm doing a cock book.' And surprising enough, most people were flattered [when] asked to be drawn." Given the series of books that Warhol had published by the mid-1950s, the line was not implausible.
Jonathan Flatley places Warhol's cock drawings within the context of his lifelong habit of collecting and argues that the potential to become part of his collection would have been alluring to many men. It would enable them to become "a Warhol" and thereby be "initiated into a special realm of similars, at once identified with Warhol and liked by him." Building on Flatley's observation, I think that the publicity provided by publishing plays an important role within Warhol's queer aesthetic. These books offered an alternative form of publicity that countered the requirements of the official public sphere. Nancy Fraser has described such alternative forms of public speech, participation, and affiliation as subaltern counterpublics, which offer "parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs." Warhol's publications helped articulate such counterpublics. In the context of the 1950s and the social milieu in which Warhol's art was known, the prospect of being in a book might have been equally enticing as becoming "a Warhol." Being in a book — a book that would circulate among a primarily, but not exclusively, homosexual social and professional world — would also enable these men to be "initiated into a special realm."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Andy Warhol, Publisher"
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Table of Contents
1 One Blue Pussy
2 Fuck You
3 Three Bad Books
4 Young, Rich, Intelligent, and Willing to Spend!
5 I’d Recognize Your Voice Anywhere
What People are Saying About This
"We see, thanks to Lucy Mulroney, that Warhol imagined everything about a book—the copyedited pages, the aimless tape-recorded drumming-up of anecdotes, even the book tour itself—as a kind of art."
"In this engrossing book, Lucy Mulroney offers a bracing new account of Andy Warhol’s publication projects as they redefined the rituals of publishing, publicity, and print in America. Drawing upon extensive new archival research treating everything from the ‘coloring parties’ of the 1950s to the late photobook America, Mulroney demonstrates the range, intricacy, and above all the radically collaborative nature of these projects."