warhol superstar billy name talks about “ante art”

The following mini-chat was initially to be the basis for an artforum.com piece (500 Words), but it never happened. Billy and I both felt that the format, which eliminates the voice of the interviewer/writer altogether made little sense.

A Warhol icon and a brilliant photographer/artist in his own right, Billy Name is synonymous with 60s-era art and culture. His witty, circumspect, and frank recollections peppering the PBS Master’s series on Andy is worth seeing the whole doc for (though I rather like it). And there’s many other gems to be found in other films and interviews about Warholism (anyone see that British street artist Simon Thompson’s poster “Warhol Is Over! (If You Want It),”?). So from the man who not only invented the Silver Factory’s tinfoil space-ship look, and was its most important in-house photographer, who I happen to think is the epitome of glamour, here’s a few more gems.

JH: Where did the idea (and name) of the “Billy Name Ante Art Superstars” come from?

BN: This is a concept that has been on my mind since the early days…I was a product of the avant garde. Dada, the Black Mountain College. My mentors were Merce Cunningham, John Cage, people who had their own ideas and did not work within the confines of the critics..they created art for art’s sake. Ante Art seemed to me to be the next natural progression. I had always wanted to recognize artists and musicians who I felt were a product of the same influences as me.

JH: How would you compare the New York art world of today to that of your Silver Factory days?

BN: Warhol was a neutral popular capper of the culture of the early sixties, which was avant garde, experimental, folkish, radical, and anarchistic.  Creators such as Cage, Cunningham, Oldenburg, and transitional artists such as Stella, Rauschenberg, Johns, La Monte Young/Marian Zazeela, etc., were all wrapped up and sent to the New York ‘art market’ scene by the Warhol ethic.  The popular idea of American artists being ‘front line’ art, succeeding Eurocentric art, won the day and American artists became popular by word-of-mouth as well as via art world literature.

Today the art world is living on the dangling threads of the early sixties rug, woven, but loosely, by the authentic artists of that era, whose little concern for the art market and finance showed through the avant garde weave of their work.  Today’s art is repetitive of that era, constantly recreating it as though it were ‘new’, but only recycling the work of that brilliant decade.  Every new artist is doing something old; it’s all been done. Today’s art does not have the excitement, joy, and culminating dynamic of sixties-era art, when these various artistic styles had a depth and symbolized creativity unhampered by market concerns.

signed: Billy Name, artist of yesterday and today.  There is no tomorrow; it never comes, it is ante art.