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Andy Warhol's Big Joke

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To the editors:

The controversiality of Andy Warhol is, by no means, an indication that his works are important, or that he is an artist ["Andy Warhol: A Long, Close Look," June 2]. What is disturbing is not the banality of Warhol's work. Modern art forms, even if they only deserve to be called "expression," have few traces of originality. I suspect artists of Warhol's ilk have no desire to compete with the Renaissance masters. Both reverence and contempt for Warhol is silly. His product is symptomatic of the age in which we live. But his expression, like the rest of us who stake out a patch of dirt, is only as worthy as it strives to become human.

Classicists and traditionalists see minimalism as part of a long chain of deterioration of skills, method, mythic grandeur, religiosity, and sensuality. There is more than a grain of truth in the simple notion that highly abstract works and minimalist expression leave the observer as cold as ice. But that does not mean only the modern artist is inhuman. In observing any form of expression, art included, the reaction of the observer is as much a revelation as the expression itself.

Zombies such as Andy Warhol don't create their petty wares out of nothing. Modern artists, like their ancient masters, are deeply influenced by their ancestors. Thus, surrealism, cubism, post-impressionism all contribute to the slop we see today in some modern art exhibitions. Should we lament the rise of the minimalists? No. Abstractionism, expressionism, minimalism are as real as any other thing the human eye observes. Until somebody can answer the question, "What is art?" radical art forms deserve a chance.

Artistic lightweights, Warhol in particular, have an artificial glow that seems to impress those in awe of whatever drivels from the east and west coasts. This dog-like reverence is hysterically funny. Do you think it's an accident that Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and Velvet Underground records are popular? Warhol, that gadfly, took the Velvets under his wing in their shaky beginning. There's as much a market for the New York brand, made-for-TV nihilism of Warhol as there is for older art forms. Cutting edge? Ha, Ha, Ha! The joke is both on Warhol's bandwagon and on the traditionalists who scoff at his superficiality.

So it is no surprise that Art museums hawk Warhol's bile. Warhol oozes that 20th century sickness--a bland mix of egoism, nihilism, brutal commercialism, and enslavement to uptight social critics. An overstatement? Of course, but could it be that this type of babble is what Warhol inspires? I prefer to be impaled, to be overpowered by art, both suddenly and through prolonged reflection. I'm still waiting for the electrical banana on the cover of the first Velvet Underground album, done by Warhol, to cry out, "You're all suckers!"

Alex Germain

Chicago

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