How Andy Warhol Worked

Andy Warhol Films

Andy Warhol's 16 mm Auricon camera was one of his most important artist's tools. From 1963, when he first started shooting film, until his death in 1987, Warhol dabbled in every variety of moving image, from epic experimental films to personal portraits to mainstream shows for MTV [source: The Andy Warhol Museum].

Although few of Warhol's films were ever commercially released, a number of them are considered landmarks of avant-garde cinema. His very first film, "Sleeping," was a five-hour fixed camera shot of a man sleeping. Then he made an epic eight-hour movie of the Empire State Building as the New York skyline turned from dusk to dark.

These static early films were much more like paintings than conventional movies. But none of Warhol's work -- even the later films with dialogue and characters -- was remotely conventional. Many were unedited or roughly edited and none had scripted dialogue. Long clips would run out of focus and plot was an afterthought. It's estimated that he made 650 films between 1963 and 1968 alone [source: Whitney].

Some of Warhol's most famous and most visual engaging film works were the hundreds of "screen tests" that he filmed in The Factory from 1964 to 1966. In his studio art, Warhol collected mundane artifacts like soup cans and Brillo boxes and stamped out emotionless reproductions. For the screen tests, Warhol collected people.

Each black-and-white, three-minute, silent screen test featured a Factory regular, celebrity, drag queen, socialite, poet, art collector or complete unknown staring back into the lens [source: Angell]. The result is arresting. The subjects, whether famous or otherwise, try to maintain their poses, giving us no hint of their thoughts or emotional state. They're nothing but their image, a film version of Warhol's rubber stamp society portraits.

Warhol's "actors" were a loosely held group of Factory regulars, including his self-proclaimed "superstars" like Brigid Berlin, International Velvet, Candy Darling, Billy Name, Baby Jane Holzer and his greatest muse, Edie Sedgwick. A 22-year-old heiress from California, Sedgwick was a strikingly beautiful, deeply troubled girl who was the subject of some of Warhol's most influential films like "Poor Little Rich Girl" and "Outer and Inner Space." Sedgwick died of a drug overdose in 1971.

For lots more information about famous artists and artistic movements, see the links below.

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  • The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. "Andy Warhol Biography"
  • The Andy Warhol Museum. "The Andy Warhol Museum Announces Exhibition: Robert Lepper, Artist & Teacher." September 10, 2002
  • Angell, Callie. The Whitney Museum Store. "Andy Warhol Screen Tests, vol 1"
  • Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Vegetarian Vegetable from Campbell's Soup II"
  • Honnef, Klaus and Grosenick, Uta. "Pop Art." Taschen, 2004
  • Kinsman, Jane. National Gallery of Australia. "afterimage: Screenprints of Andy Warhol"
  • Osterwold, Tilman. "Pop Art." Taschen, 2003
  • Paul, Stella. "Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Abstract Expressionism" The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • PBS. "Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film"
  • PBS. "Andy Warhol: Career Timeline"
  • "Biography"