The Pop Art movement was burgeoning and a photographer isolated two artists as its rising stars. Back in 1963, William John Kennedy focused his lens at the studios of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana. As history has fated it to be, these two names are the bastions and icons of the genre.
More than 50 years later, unearthing a cardboard box kept in a closet, which was full of film negatives, contact sheets, and transparencies that Kennedy discovered them by chance as he was cleaning out to move to Florida. The world breathes a collective sigh of relief as this is a rare and historic look into the art world that doesn’t exist anymore but it is the stuff legends were made of.
Attending a brunch event on May 5, 2012 at Site/109 on the LES that Arte Fuse saw the photographs of Kennedy and heard a panel talk “Telling Tales: Warhol’s Friends Tell It Like It Is”. Eric Shinman, the president of the Andy Warhol Museum, moderated with the panel consisting of Ultra Violet, William John Kennedy and Taylor Mead. For a good hour or so anecdotes about Warhol meeting Kennedy and how this shutterbug had the rare opportunity to document Warhol at work in The Factory kept all entranced. “Andy” to his friends was undeniably a genius and bench marked an entire art movement into the realm of commercialism still co-opted or appropriated by present artists in some form. As much as he was a genius that he’s also a contradiction in terms. He’s an Angel and the Devil. He’s Generous and a Tightwad. He’s supremely a Genius and an Idiot. But nevertheless, his place in art history is held firm permanently.
Kennedy was fortunate to be assigned to document what was the raging art movement then, Pop Art. He remembered Warhol being intensely focused as an artist at work but a kindred soul who was generally reserved. In fact, Kennedy was the only photographer allowed to document the Americans 1963 exhibition at the MoMA, which included other legends like Oldenburg, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein. There was one shot that had a relaxed Warhol and Indiana basking in their first glimpse of artistic legend limelight. Kennedy went on to take iconic pictures of Warhol holding up a Marilyn Monroe acetate and Indiana with his LOVE artwork. Both of these are iconic works that defined the movement.
Consider it fortuitous that the pictures were rediscovered in good condition and now ready to share to the world. Before they were famous, they were just working artists but their passion transcended past the silver gelatin prints.
Before They Were Famous: Behind the Lens of William John Kennedy
On View: April 19 – May 29,, 2012
Gallery Hours: Wednesday to Sunday (12 – 6 pm), Monday & Tuesday by appt.
Site/109. 109 Norfolk Street (between Rivington & Delancey) NYC, NY 10002
article by: Oscar A. Laluyan