Pedestrians probably don’t know that he used to stand on the street corner handing out copies of Interview magazine to the drug addicts and misfits that occupied the park in the 1970s.
But artist Rob Pruitt and his 10-foot-tall chrome rendering, dubbed The Andy Monument, are trying to pay homage to an icon of the New York art world and bring Andy Warhol back to the Downtown scene.
“The reason I moved to New York was Andy Warhol and everything he represented. This is my tribute to this man,” Pruitt said this morning as he lifted the covering from the monument, commissioned by the Public Art Fund and on display until October 2. Pruitt looked up at the statue of Warhol circa 1977, dressed to reflect the times in a Brooks Brothers tweed jacket and Levi’s 501 jeans, a Polaroid around his neck and a Bloomingdales bag in his hand, and after a long pause and with satisfaction in his voice said, “I’ve never seen it outside in daylight before.”
Pruitt’s giddiness at that moment could not be masked. For Pruitt, the personal connections to Warhol are an endless list of memories and interactions.
“Being a teen in suburban D.C. in the early 80s, there weren’t a lot of gay heroes. Andy Warhol jumped out at me as someone I could relate to,” said Pruitt.
Everything in his past seems to have led up to this moment. This is a man who named his four childhood cats—Andy, Halston, Calvin and Liza—after Warhol and his friends. A man, who at the age of 14, brought dozens of cans of Campbell’s tomato soup and boxes of Brillo pads to a Warhol book signing. A man who still regrets not taking an unpaid internship working for Warhol in the early 80s when he moved to New York to study at Parsons.
The monument’s chrome finishing makes it a definite standout among the area’s marble and concrete statues that seem to blend into their surroundings. In full Warhol style, there’s nothing shy or quiet about the piece.
Pruitt decided on the shiny finish as a cue to Warhol’s first New York factory, which was wallpapered in silver foil, but also to “shift the focus to the essence of the man rather than superficial details like wrinkles and lines.”
“In the bright light of day many of my sculpting imperfections wouldn’t be noticed,” Pruitt said, something he thinks Warhol would have found very clever. “He was a genius at taking deficits and making magic out of it,” said Pruitt.
And although Union Square has changed significantly since Warhol’s day, Pruitt thinks Warhol would have embraced the change.
“Not to be arrogant but it feels just right,” Pruitt said. He liked the idea of having the monument on display in a public venue, what he hopes will be a “pilgrimage site” where the most people can see it.