Andy Warhol – from New York to Stelline
Text Carla Tolomeo Vigorelli
In 1977, Aurelio Amendola was in New York accompanying his friend, sculptor Finotti, on his first exhibition in the US. That year Jimmy Carter had been elected President, My Fair Lady was showing on Broadway for the 239th time, Elvis Presley had died but the sculptor and photographer wished to discover another side to America, a more underground facet – the part that having identified in consumerism the country’s guiding star had invented Pop Art. They looked for its leading figure, Andy Warhol, who was also a theatre and screen director, talent scout, homosexual and devout Catholic, founder of The Factory and who, only a few years earlier, had survived Valerie Solanas’ gun attack. They attempted to gain access to The Factory, normally open only to Warhol’s circle of friends and artists, a borderline mix enveloped in a sulphurous haze. Neither Amendola or Finotti spoke English, Warhol’s secretary, a real-life Cerberus who understood Italian, flagged and filtered phone calls, guarding the gates to that Underworld spoke to them with e certain degree of rudeness over the phone. It was Warhol himself that expressed the desire to meet the duo upon finding out that Amendola was a photographer who had collaborated with the likes of Marino Marini and De Chirico; clearly, the two names had sparked interest. Warhol immediately invited and welcomed the pair. Amendola shot a series of photographs, many in fact, being fully aware that he was capturing and documenting a fundamental artist, place and moment in the history of American art during his most innovative and transgressive period. A once in a lifetime moment.
I visited the exhibition and left deeply touched, which led me to call Amendola in Pistoia: he told me that, once back in Italy, he never sent those photographs to Warhol but, whilst attempting to come up with an excuse when he met him again in 1986, it was Warhol who revealed that he clearly recalled that day and set a second appointment at The Factory, again at 11 am like the first time. He was sick and deeply distressed but still allowing to be photographed. Those were to be the last images.
His face, the yellow tinted hair, the bitter sadness, the lips clenched and the eyes allowing no respite: they scrutinise, observe and challenge from the walls of the exhibition staged at Fondazione Stelline. An unexpected, disquieting exhibition, far from the poster Warhol we all know.
Amendola has accustomed us to images that portray the subject not posing but in a moment of truth – of creation and faithfulness to one’s most intimate self. Marino with a white horse, Burri setting plastic on fire, De Chirico on a gondola in Venice. Warhol is still, posing: he is being photographed – he is aware – he is entrusting his face, the wrinkles, the clenched lips, the cold eyes to the shot that will deliver him to immortality. The eyes staring back at the camera: a full length shot, seated, a giant-sized portrait of his face. Around – the void. Most likely, he would have been in a room with walls and ceilings, but all of that becomes irrelevant: what exists is only that dramatic figure. And it exists because it stopped time, posed and looked straight into the camera.