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People are Beautiful opening lecture, "Reel to Real: Andy Warhol's World"

Today’s post comes from Delphine Douglas, class of 2018 and Art Center Multimedia Student Assistant

Vincent Fremont alongside Andy Warhol in NYC; Photo: Anton Perch, 1975

On Friday, January 26, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center hosted a lecture and reception to celebrate the opening of the new exhibition, People are Beautiful: Prints, Photographs, and Films by Andy Warhol. Vincent Fremont delivered the opening lecture, titled “Reel to Real: Andy Warhol’s World,” in Taylor Hall 102. Fremont began working for Andy Warhol in the summer of 1969 and continued to work for The Factory for nearly 20 years, mainly as a producer for video and films. His life’s work continues to center on his experiences working with Warhol including involvement in founding the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and establishing the Andy Warhol Museum. He’s also currently writing a memoir about his experience working with Warhol.

Andy Warhol
Dolly Parton, 1985
Polaroid Polacolor ER print
Collection of Neuberger Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. EL 02.2008.17

Fremont’s lecture was a fast-paced run-through of highlights of works on view in the new exhibition, explained as they relate to Fremont’s personal experience working with Warhol. Fremont’s description of this post-factory-era Warhol career emphasized the way personality, chance, and artistic talent collided to create the enormous force that was Warhol’s artistic output. It made sense then for Fremont to discuss the Warhol portraits in terms of personal anecdotes and stories that described the circumstances that produced each of the images.
Fremont was 19 years old when he met Warhol in the summer of 1969, three months after moving to New York. In the summer of 1972, Warhol taught Fremont to use a portable video camera while vacationing in Montauk, allowing Fremont to find his niche within the Warhol world as a video person. It was from this perspective, behind the video camera, that Fremont encountered many of the subjects in Warhol’s portraits, including many of those that appear in People are Beautiful. Fremont described filming Warhol staging portraits including Dolly Parton’s, for which he removed her jewelry, powdered her face and neck, and made her lean forward into the camera. He then recreated this staging in other polaroid portraits of women as seen in People are Beautiful.

Fremont was careful to emphasize Warhol’s artistry, pointing to his creative decisions to make all of his women subjects fit an idealized womanly type, to the point of almost obscuring their identities with heavy makeup and post-production edits to their features. This aesthetic, as seen in Warhol’s portraits of Dolly Parton as well as Emily Landau and Anne Bass, reads as ironic and playful given the celebrity-status and extreme recognizability of Warhol’s subjects.

The lecture continued with further insight into Warhol’s creative process that Fremont described as inseparable from his social world. In describing the many TV series he produced with Warhol that did and did not make it to air, Fremont talked of Warhol’s interest in the details of production including color and saturation of final cuts, as well as the necessary involvement of a wide cast of interesting people. To this point, Fremont screened a preview for their TV series, Fashion, which featured 1980s celebrities as they danced and spoke to the camera. The rapid cuts and bright colors of the clip came off as being prototypically “80s,” suggesting that Warhol was deeply in tune with televisual aesthetics of the time. The preview visually confirmed the connection between Warhol’s output and the revolving door of personalities that Fremont described.
Andy Warhol
Anne Bass, 1981
Polaroid Polacolor 2 print
Collection, Neuberger Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase.
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. EL 02.2008.08

The idea that life with Warhol was a constant social affair that served as a breeding ground for creativity came up again and again, including during the question and answer portion of the lecture. Here, Fremont offered an anecdote about Georgia O’Keeffe and Pablo Picasso happening to visit Warhol’s studio at the same time, and Fremont then being able to take video footage of the two together while Warhol photographed.

Fremont delivered his lecture assuming prior knowledge of Warhol as an artist and a socialite, emphasizing that his creative output was the work of an artist with refined taste and serious aesthetic ideals. Most people in the standing-room only crowd were likely already familiar with Warhol as an artistic and social icon. It seemed fitting then for Fremont to share personal anecdotes that related the social to the aesthetic, especially as an introduction to People are Beautiful, a show that features portraits that capture personality, celebrity and status. The exhibition is supported by the by the Evelyn Metzger Exhibition Fund and by the Hoene Hoy Photography Endowment Fund, and will be on view until April 15. To find our more about the exhibition including the four other academic museums participating in Warhol x 5 in 2018, visit the Art Center’s website, here.

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