September 2015 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Andy Warhol's "America"

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is synonymous with postwar American art, and despite being most recognized for his images of soup cans and Marilyn Monroe, the artist was also a passionate cameraman, famously bringing his Minox 35L with him wherever he went, capturing on film the contradictions and joys of modern life. Many of these images were published in America, Warhol's 1985 work, part photo-diary and part written observations of celebrity and mediocrity. The book was just reissued by Grove Press, and while it's tempting to just flip through and gaze at all the famous people, there's plenty of poor, huddled, unrecognizable masses yearning for a taste of the American dream.  After 30 years, Warhol's writing is surprisingly insightful and even applicable to the 2015 political and social landscape. Take his musings on immigrants, for example: "When I was in California I found out that people were learning Spanish so they could talk to their maids, and that all the people doing the really boring jobs in the electronics industry were immigrants.... We all came here from somewhere else, and everybody who wants to live in America and obey the law should be able to come too, and there's no such thing as being more or less American, just American." (Donald Trump, take note.)

America's reissue was timed perfectly to coincide with the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition entitled "Andy Warhol: 'Campbell's Soup Cans' and Other Works, 1953-1967", running through October 18. In addition to showing the 32 paintings in a linear format as they were first hung in 1962, the show includes the artist's preparatory sketches and art books from the same period, revealing the man on the cusp of placing his indelible mark on America's cultural and artistic landscape.

Campbell's Soup Cans. 1962. ©2015 Andy Warhol Foundation / ARS, NY / TM Licensed by Campbell's Soup Co. All rights reserved.

America, by Andy Warhol; Grove Press, $20.00, 244 pages.
"Andy Warhol: 'Campbell's Soup Cans' and Other Works, 1953-1967" can be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, now through October 18.