Emmy-Nominated ‘The Andy Warhol Diaries’ Paints New Artist Portrait – Deadline

In the mid-1970s, Andy Warhol started keeping a diary of sorts. It began as a dry accounting of expenses – a tube of paint here, a liter of milk there – dictated to his collaborator Pat Hackett. But over time, the entries have evolved from strictly mundane to something deeper and more personal.

“I have these desperate feelings,” he noted in a 1981 entry, for example, “that nothing means nothing.”

Andy Warhol’s diaries were published posthumously in 1989, with Hackett editing the raw 20,000 pages into a more manageable, if not negligible, 807. But it was only that year that Andy Warhol’s Diaries have been made into a documentary series for Netflix, and an acclaimed one at that. It earned four Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and individual recognition to Andrew Rossi for writing and directing the series.

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“The diaries, when they were published, were considered outrageous because of all the gossip,” Rossi told Deadline. “But of course it’s the statements he makes about himself that are the most revealing and fascinating.”

The candor of the diaries allows Rossi to completely reframe our understanding of the artist and the person. They shatter the public image – which Warhol himself deliberately created – of a pale, almost expressionless, sexless and bloodless figure. The uncensored recording Warhol left behind reveals that far from being a dispassionate ghost, it turns out his veins are streaked with corpuscles after all.

“In the papers, his desire is very palpable,” says Rossi. “He’s not a man who just closed off that side of his life. He just had a really hard time accessing it.

Andy Warhol's Diaries

“The Diaries of Andy Warhol”
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There were many reasons for this, as the series explores. Warhol, born in 1928, grew up at a time when homosexuality was condemned as deviant. The Byzantine Catholic Church he attended as a youth in Pittsburgh would not have encouraged him to accept his sexual identity. Additionally, as a child, Warhol was teased about his appearance and he came to see himself as physically unattractive and undesirable.

“What comes out of his personal story – what I’ve really tried to adapt the diaries to bring to the fore – is his sense of shame about his appearance, and his strangeness,” says Rossi, “and how he never felt he could be loved and felt alienated, that he was so awkward he could never fully fit in.

He found a way to fit in by building his own scene in New York with The Factory, a meeting point for artists, musicians, personalities and “superstars” of underground cinema.

“Andy allowed people to be who they wanted to be,” Rossi says. “That’s really what we think about with the factory of the 1960s and the characters that were there that he put in several films like Sofa and others.”

Andy Warhol and Jon Gould

Andy Warhol with Jon Gould
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Contrary to Warhol’s image as a eunuch, Rossi highlights two important romantic relationships in the artist’s life, both of which have a carnal dimension. The last of them was with Jon Gould, a closed Paramount Pictures executive. Before that, Warhol attached himself to Jed Johnson, a handsome young man who started out sweeping the floors of The Factory and later edited some of Warhol’s films. Warhol and Johnson were coupled for over a decade, and it wasn’t an asexual union. “Andy shared a bed with Jed Johnson,” Rossi says.

In public, Warhol muted his sexuality and encouraged investigators to perceive him as asexual. He may have done this in part to preserve his commercial viability as an artist – always a major concern for him – in these homophobic times. But the docuseries points to a second phase in Warhol’s life, when he became increasingly adventurous and made more frankly homoerotic art. This coincided with the arrival of new individuals at The Factory, such as sexually uninhibited gay artist-model Victor Hugo.

“What’s fascinating is that there’s a whole other evolution of The Factory and Andy’s engagement with the people he helped reunite in the late 70s and 80s. And that’s what the show really focuses on,” Rossi explains. “And in this version of The Factory, Andy is much more open with his sexuality, and it transforms everything to see him as a gay man collaborating with Victor. Hugo to bring [male] models at the factory, to photograph them for the Sex Parts Polaroids, which then become the subjects of the Torso paintings.

Rossi adds: “This is an example of how, by investigating his personal side, into which the newspapers give us a window, Warhol goes from being the ‘man in the corner’ who perhaps manipulates people to more of a participant years later. And that’s what I was hoping to do, was to humanize him and pull him out of that iconic shell.

Andy Warhol

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In the six-part series, Warhol reads his own diaries. Or rather, a simulated version of Warhol does (if any actual journal records of Warhol remain, they have not been revealed).

“I contacted Resemble AI, an artificial intelligence company that does voice cloning. And they were able to create an algorithm that allowed me to insert the text of the newspaper and sketch scenes based on this algorithm “, explains Rossi. “But then it was still a bit steep. And so it was useful to have [actor] Bill Irwin read [the words] beautifully, then Resemble AI combined these two audio sources to create an interpolated model.

Rossi is transparent with viewers about what he does. A map at the beginning of Andy Warhol’s Diaries states, “Andy’s voice in the series is recreated using an AI program with permission from the Andy Warhol Foundation.” Moreover, all of this seems perfectly consistent with Warhol’s concerns.

“Andy’s whole art practice was mechanically based, in that he said he wanted to be a machine because they have less feelings,” Rossi notes. “He was transformed into a robot [in 1982], also in a hologram. He had someone impersonate him and go on a college tour in the 1960s, on his behalf. And so, I felt that in making a documentary about an artistic figure who has done so much to invent new forms of visual expression, that it would be a big goal to make the piece as much a work of art as a documentary work. and historical storytelling. The voice of the AI ​​brings us emotionally closer to Andy.

In May, one of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe serigraphs, “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn,” sold at auction for $195 million, the highest price ever paid for an American work of art. This provides more evidence, if any, of Warhol’s central place in culture. The Marilyns, Jackie Kennedy and Elvis constitute his most widely known work, but Rossi believes that Warhol’s identity as a homosexual and creator of specifically homoerotic works should be appreciated.

“The later work is not part of the canon,” Rossi points out. “Polaroids and Sex Parts prints are often at the back of the gallery. And [curator] Jessica Beck talks about it, that it hurts art history to ignore her true identity.

Rossi finds it significant that the docuseries has been embraced by Emmy voters, given the current political climate in the United States.

“It’s significant, especially at a time when so much effort is being made, especially in state legislatures, to roll back LGBTQ rights,” he says, adding that the Emmy recognition “also validates the relationships that Andy had with Jed Johnson and Jon Gould.” , which in many ways has been erased from the record, from the official history… It makes it seem like it’s almost an official stamp that, yes, these stories are valid.

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