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Artist Andy Warhol dead at 58

By
DAN JACOBSON

NEW YORK -- Andy Warhol, the artist-celebrity whose pop art images of soup cans and superstars made him famous for longer than the 15 minutes he predicted for everyone, died of a heart attack at age 58.

Warhol was pronounced dead at 6:31 a.m. Sunday at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, one day after undergoing gall bladder surgery. He had been in stable condition following the routine operation, a hospital spokeswoman said.

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Warhol, a pale, slight man who wore a white wig, black clothes and glasses, was an award-winning commercial illustrator before becoming a founder of 'pop art' in the early 1960's with his portraits of Campbell Soup cans.

In works that questioned what makes something art, he depicted everyday objects including Brillo boxes and Coke bottles and such human cultural icons as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Later, he expanded beyond silk-screen prints and paintings, making films, producing a rock group,writing books, publishing Interview magazine, hosting a cable TV show and taking photographs.

And he worked at being well known, becoming famous for being famous and for predicting, 'In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.'

'Andy Warhol was a serious artist whose position was unserious,' said William Rubin, director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, home of the famed Campbell Soup portrait.

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'He was a pioneer of image-appropriating pop art, and the implications of his work proved essential to the subsequent post-Modernist movement.'

He was born Andrew Warhola, one of three sons of Czechoslovakian immigrants living in Pittsburgh. He often gave differing dates of birth, but it is believed he was born in 1927.

Warhol worked his way through the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie-Mellon University, and received a bachelor's degree in art in 1949.

After handling odd jobs in Pittsburgh, such as selling vegetables from a car and working as a soda jerk, he moved to New York.

Warhol began his career as a fashion illustrator at Vogue and Glamour magazines and won the Art Directors Club medal in 1957 for a shoe advertisement.

His first success on the avante-garde art scene came in 1962 with exhibitions of his painting of an oversized Campbell Soup can.

Warhol, who once said he wanted 'to be a machine,' set up a studio called 'The Factory' in New York's Union Square, where he churned out his silk-screen prints and made home movies -- many featuring actresses he dubbed 'superstars,' including socialite Edie Sedgwick, who died of a drug overdose at age 28.

On June 3, 1968, another superstar, Valerie Solanos, shot Warhol at 'The Factory' with a .32-caliber revolver. The bullets punctured his lungs, spleen, liver and stomach, but he recovered.

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Solanis -- a 'propagandist' for SCUM, the Society for Cutting Up Men - said she shot Warhol because he had 'too much control of my life.'

In the mid-1960s, Warhol's movies included 'Sleep,' an eight-hour film of a man asleep in bed. Later, he produced such movies as 'Trash,' 'Bad' and 'Andy Warhol's Frankenstein.'

Warhol's foray into rock music came with the Velvet Underground, a band featuring Lou Reed that became a major influence on the New Wave of the 1970s. Warhol produced the group's first album, 1967's 'The Velvet Underground and Nico,' and provided its cover art -- a signed portrait of a banana.

Warhol's books included 'POPism' and 'The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.' In 1969, he founded Interview, which specializes in chronicling a New York celebrity scene that included Warhol.

In the 1970s, Warhol often could be found holding court in trendy nightspots such as Studio 54, surrounded by such friends as Bianca Jagger, Halston and Liza Minelli.

Warhol's art also reflected his interest in celebrities, featuring repeated images of Monroe, Minelli, Mao Tse-Tung and Jimmy Carter in prints that were made with photographs and silk-screen techniques.

Julian Schnabel, a fellow artist, said he visited Warhol's studio last week and was overwhelmed by his new works -- including paintings of the Last Supper up to 36 feet long in which the image was repeated some 50 times.

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'He was absolutely one of the greatest we ever had in this country,' Schnabel said.

Warhol is survived by his brothers, Paul and John, who live in the Pittsburgh area.

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