Former Musician and Life editor Scherman (Backbeat: Earl Palmer’s Story, 2000) and Rolling Stone founding editor Dalton (Edie Factory Girl, 2006, etc.) offer a comprehensive reappraisal of the ’60s heyday of pop-art savant Andy Warhol.
The authors focus on the techniques and governing philosophy of the work that profoundly influenced both “high” and “low” culture, effectively collapsing the barrier between the two. Examining Warhol’s most fertile period, roughly 1961 to the artist’s near-fatal shooting in 1968, Scherman and Dalton marshal a staggering amount of research and copious interviews with Warhol’s associates to provide new insights into the creation of the famous images of soup cans and soda bottles, serial celebrity portraits, multimedia happenings and experimental films that alternately energized and horrified the fine-art establishment. Though the authors concentrate mostly on the work itself, it is so inextricably tied to Warhol’s personality that a psychological portrait of the artist emerges. Warhol, morbidly shy and insecure, sexually stymied and determinedly vague and affectless, inserted himself into the heart of the culture through a native sense of canny manipulation and an infallible eye for design. Childish, casually cruel and ruthless in his personal and professional relationships, Warhol stands as a monument to the power of passive aggression. Vivid portraits of such Warhol-adjacent luminaries as Jasper Johns, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and Factory “superstars” Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga provide much of the narrative’s color, elements that recombined in endlessly fascinating and fruitful ways with Warhol as the gnomic, giggling catalyst.
Both an indelible portrait of the artist as a weird young man and an elegant survey of one of the most vital and revolutionary periods in American popular culture—a richly detailed, kaleidoscopic treat.