In the 1970’s, impecunious and unknown, the only way I could get into the legendary Studio 54 was under the sponsorship, so to speak, of someone older and more established. The velvet rope parted only one time; it wasn’t the night Bianca Jagger rode across the dance floor on a white horse, but it was close.
There was a balcony where you could go if you were seriously tripping, as I was, to get out of the mayhem. That night the rows of theater seats were empty except for a few couples making out in the back. I collapsed into a chair. When my eyes adjusted to the dark, I became aware of someone else in my row. There he was, solitary in the shadows, standing with his arms crossed and one hand to his chin, staring at the revelry below. The trademark wig, in the pulsing light of the dance floor, looked not so much silver as made of straw. He glanced at me briefly, seemed about to speak, changed his mind. I was of no interest to him, just another stoned kid.
Andy Warhol combined social and pictorial intelligence in a way not seen in this country since John Singer Sargent. In one of the most unexpected artistic transformations of the last century, he found a way to make a highly synthetic, semi mechanized kind of painting feel authentic. His attitude and posture, his public persona, and his forays into film making and other media were radical in the world of high art, but his aesthetic inclinations were more traditional. They harked back to, and partially bridged, two widely divergent tendencies in American art: social realism and abstraction, the Yankee peddler and the Transcendentalist.