To the editors:
Andy Warhol was the supreme purveyor of form without substance, the art world's paramount cult of personality. I had hoped that with his death the sycophants who danced to his beat and dominated the media would find more appropriate things to do; selling Amway, perhaps. But the cult of Warhol remains as strong as ever, judging from Fred Camper's review of the current exhibit at the Art Institute [June 2].
Camper consistently refers to Warhol's "fetishism." Good word for both the art and the review, I reckon: Webster defines fetishism as "extravagant irrational devotion." While Warhol might have felt devotion to Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger and soup makers, it's difficult to imagine why anyone else should follow suit. John Updike's observation in The New Republic makes as much sense as any other I've heard; while Warhol was busily denaturing art, many critics soon realized that if art disappears, art critics would, too. The choice has been clear enough--either suck up to Warhol or be prepared to find real work. After all, it is easier to slavishly praise someone than write computer software manuals or edit legalese. Beauty is transitory, but Campbell's Soup is forever.
The most pathetic part of Andy Warhol's legacy is that people like Camper still haven't discovered the cosmic joke that Warhol played on the world. Warhol finished the process that Picasso began, proving that brand name recognition alone can conquer the universe, a lesson that Madison Avenue understood long before the art world, apparently. At a time when art criticism is more necessary than ever, what with increasingly astronomical prices being paid for anything Picasso or Van Gogh ever touched and with critical standards disintegrating (e.g. "Dread" Scott Tyler), it is disheartening to see that critics and reviewers are still in Warhol's thrall.
Mark E. Heuring
Fred Camper replies:
The point about a work of art is that one need not "agree" with it to be moved by it. Nowhere in my review do I suggest that I have any "devotion" to Marilyn or Mick or Campbell. Rather, I tried to describe what I felt Warhol expressed through his works' forms. Further, what I described as Warhol's attitude toward his subject was a lot more complex than mere "devotion." I would hope people would appreciate or reject Warhol's art, and my review, based on their actual experience of the works, rather than with art-politics arguments and ad hominem attacks.