Customer Reviews: Warhol: The Biography
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on September 16, 1998
Victor Bockris' biography is sympathetic to Warhol's supposed contrived personality. The reader gets the impression that the author, who had a personal association with Warhol, really understood the facination his subject maintained for his adopted country (the U.S.) throughout most of his working life. While others tend to dismiss Warhol as a simple poseur Bockris relates his wide-eyed enthusiasm for the consumer society. While some have suggested he was manipulative, this biography suggests that he was slightly naive. Most of his life is covered here and, although there is documented proof of some interesting associations that are not touched upon, in general the work is broad in its scope and the reader will discover that the most notorious pop artist of all had far greater depth than his blank features and fickle comments suggested. It is also a feast for those interested in good gossip and the social history of the 60s and 70s.
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on October 10, 2001
As a huge fan of this fascinating man who blured the line between art and commerce, I was looking for a well written book
thicker than a brick that would reveal once and for all the mystery that is Andy Warhol. Im still looking, the definitive Warhol bio is yet to be written it seems, but in the meantime I'll settle for this Bockris book which is a sound overall portrait of the artist and his life. Starting from his poverty and illness stricken childhood in an industrial town in Pennsylvania the author breezily tours the reader through his
college life, and his subsequent move to New York to become a highly successful (and paid) graphic artist, before establishing himself as one of the founding pioneers of pop art. From there we take rollercoaster ride through his film making years at the Factory, his subsequent shooting, and the time he spent as a socialite and portait artist in the last two decades of his life. Some light is shed on the issues concerning Andy's sexuality, Catholicism, monophobia, work ethic, short lived
intimate relationships, shopoholism, and his seemingly aloof public persona.
Though Bockris rightly bestows more pages to Warhols peak years as an artist in the sixties, he skims the later decades of his life. As with his Lou Reed biography, Bockris has a tendency to demonize his subjects towards the final chapters of his works. Try as his he might here, his weakly supported insinuations of Warhol as a cold and manipulative character are more a reflection on the authors own
feelings of insecurity, rather than their being any intrinsic truth in the matter. There is a middle way between sycophantism and character debasement, and Bockris obviously hasn't found it. It's adequately written, albeit unimaginatively, and it takes real effort on part of the reader to stop turning the pages. As it stands, a fine Warhol primer, but for those with an inquiring mind, this book will probably raise more questions than it answers.
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on February 27, 2013
(page 158, my book)
The interviewer asked, "Do you think pop art is"
"No", Warhol replied
"Do you think pop art is"
"No" he replied, "No, I don't"

(Page 159) Marcel Duchamp
"What concerns us is the concept that wants to put Campell's soup cans on a canvas."

There are a great many descriptions of Warhol in this book, among others: genius, voyeur, village idiot, a phoney, a vampire

(Page 155): To at least one onlooker he seemed more "like a white witch, looking at America from an alien and obtuse angle."

The strength of this book is that the author always provides us with several views of Andy during the same time period - some flattering, others less so

Mr. Bockris takes us through Andy Warhol's entire background of growing up in Pittsburgh and attending art school there. The one aspect evident is that Andy (like other great artists) worked very hard - from a young age he was constantly sketching and painting. When he arrived in New York in the early 1950's he had to make money and rapidly made advertising sketches. He eventually made his way from "commercial" art into the "artistic" art world. The rivalries between the different groups - artistic versus commercial, abstract expressionism versus art and pop art, gay versus straight, gallery competitions are all well brought out. But the book is foremost about Andy's multiple worlds.

We also get a first hand view of the Warhol factory of the 1960's and it's a pretty bizarre place. There are assorted misfits of all types. Andy had an intense attraction to dysfunctional people - he was compulsively drawn towards their problems
Page 219: Andy on Edie Sedgwick
"I could see that she had more problems than anybody I'd ever met."

He would not necessarily try to help them, in fact (from page 205-06) "when they had passed their prime for his use, which usually took from three to six months... the deserted star would be in the position of a drug addict suddenly cut off from his supplier." He needed them for art stimulation. There was a price to pay for these affiliations with unsavory characters. One, Valerie Solanas, shot him in 1968; others committed suicide or died of a drug overdose.

Much of what he did in the early `60's partly reflects his Orthodox Church upbringing - but he made everyday objects into icons. He literally filtered them in a very special way.
Andy also made several underground films. One was called "Kitchen"; here is Andy's description of it (page 223):
"[it] was illogical, without motivation or character, and completely ridiculous. Very much like real life."

The Factory started to change in the early 1970's
Page 376: John Richardson
"The speed freaks and the transvestites gave way to high bohemia'

Andy started to paint celebrities as part of his pursuit and obsession with fame. He was criticized for this - going commercial again. But he was not the only artist who did portraits for money; Renoir did the same with affluent clients in Paris.

Andy was always moving towards the unconventional no matter what he was doing. This is a rollicking biography of one of the most public artists in America. It captures the New York scene of the era and its' really outlandish - much like Lou Reed's song "Walk on the Wild Side".

Page 277
[Warhol] knew better than any one the value of negative publicity
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on September 30, 2012
The information about Andy's childhood provided some illuminating explanations for his later actions. Still a complex man who could not be completely understood. Details of his New York years filled in some blanks in my knowledge and understanding. I also appeciated the cultural context the author provided. Clear writing.
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on September 18, 2006
Now out in a new edition, Victor Bockris' WARHOL is a very solidly written and researched biography. In particular, the first half creates an extremely detailed portrait of Warhol's Pittsburgh youth; this adds a tremendous amount of context and depth to Warhol's own work, and the meanings and symbolisms of that work will gain new clarity after reading through some of Bockris' book.

Unfortunately, the book gets less detailed and more gossipy later on - Warhol's many flaws are underlined again and again, but Warhol surrounded himself with other highly creative people who launched interesting careers of their own - Paul Morrissey and Lou Reed both spring to mind - and Bockris does little or no investigation of Warhol's influence upon them, and any actual ideas just seem to get lost here amid the varied bits of gossip.

-David Alston
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on February 20, 2014
Fabulous! This book flows so naturally- it is an effortless read. Many bios seem to bog down in chronology or some aspect of factual history; the writing here is graceful and natural. Reading this book is almost like being there- the Factory, the interviews and the night life. The portrait created feels tangible. I feel as though I know more about the mystery that is Warhol, although, Warhol offered so many conflicting views of himself that it's hard to say if that's possible. A very interesting and entertaining book.
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on August 17, 2005
Bockris was a friend of Warhol, at least for several years. He shares a lot of detail but what seems to stand out in this biography in particular is that:

* Warhol had a lot of boyfriends, none for long, and he was ridiculously jealous.

* Warhol used people no end and generally didn't pay those who worked for him.

So I was left at the end with a decidedly negative impression of Warhol.

I'm suspicious. It didn't seem that Bockris explained how someone so creepy was able to get some many talented people to work with and hang out for him. All to be a part of the Warhol scene? For expectations of fame, money, connections? I don't know. I do know companies with a little liked leader. Still, it left me wondering if Bockris had something in for Warhol. I don't doubt there's some truth in Bockris' account of Warhol with boyfriends and assistants but I can't tell how much. Instead of resolving who Warhol was, this book makes me also wonder who Bockris is and leaves me seeking other books to learn more about Warhol.
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on January 25, 2002
The first half of this book is invaluable for the intimate infomation that it gives on Andy Warhol's early years. It is very sensitively written and thoroughly engaging, though the latter years are sort of run through at the speed of sound. That would be the only criticsm I have of this book but you can flesh out the facts (from Andy's view) by getting a copy of the Andy Warhol Diaries. Otherwise it's a really great book.
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on August 2, 2000
This is not a brilliant biography, but there are interesting facts about Andy's life, and so I do recommend it. Ironically, in Andy Warhol's DIARIES, he mentions how a magazine is considering hiring Victor Bockris as one of its writers. And Andy says, "So they are really scraping the barrel." Ironic that Bockris, then, would be Andy's biographer! Bockris, though, isn't as bad a writer as Andy thought.
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on January 8, 2014
I knew almost nothing about Warhol, not a thing about his backgrounds and origins, and now I am really into his art!
Fantastic reading for lovers of art or not, and a reference for our present culture.
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