When Andy Warhol Went Gaga for Dada

Read THE DAILY PIC: When Andy Warhol painted an ad for some piping, it was also an ad of sorts for the Dada sculpture called 'God'.


THE DAILY PIC (#1817): The New York avant-garde was crazy for Dada in the late 1950s and early 1960s, so any of the many visitors to Warhol’s studio who saw this painting of piping would have immediately ‘got’ what it was actually pointing to: A Duchampian “assisted readymade” assembled out of a miter box and a plumber’s trap by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, one of art’s greatest radicals, probably working around 1917 with the painter Morton Schamberg. (See the image below.)

The piece, provocatively titled God, had been in the great Arensberg Collection since 1950, and is known to have been on view there in 1954 and again (or still) in 1960, when the local paper did a whole story about it as the ultimate exemplar of the Dada movement. Documents show that Warhol was a pretty regular visitor to Philly, as well as being a fiercely committed fan (and collector) of Dada and its master Marcel Duchamp, so it’s almost certain he would have seen God at one point or another. Around the same time as Warhol painted his pipe canvas  (as a Pop Art ad, you could say, for God) he also painted an old-fashioned, ornate pull-chain toilet – a pretty obvious, cross-gendered riff on Duchamp’s manly Edwardian urinal.

The Pop Art of Warhol and his peers was originally known as neo-Dada, a title that many of its proponents rejected. I think Warhol would have been proud to wear it; it’s not absurd to think of Warhol’s entire life and career, from 1961 on, as one ongoing Dada piece. (The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Founding Collection, contribution of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

A note to my readers: After 1,817 columns about 1,817 different works of art – including the occasional musical instrument, bagel or bottle of wine – the Daily Pic will be taking a well-deserved break, and then returning in July as a weekly posting at BlakeGopnik.com – leaving more time for my Sisyphean labors on Andy Warhol. (Expect more than a few columns to dwell on Andy.)  Thank you for reading!

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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