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When Did Andy Warhol Meet John Cage?
Gary Comenas (2009)

When Andy Warhol first met John Cage is open to question. Warhol claimed to have first "met" Cage in the 1940s. In an interview of the artist conducted by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh in 1985, Warhol comments that "When I was a kid, you know, John Cage came - I guess I met him when I was fifteen or something like that." Emma Lavigne writes in the Warhol Live exhibition catalogue: "Although it is unlikely that Warhol attended the first lecture-recital given by Cage in Pittsburgh on April 6, 1943, it is possible that he was present at the second concert and dance performance by Cage and Merce Cunningham on June 24, 1945, three months before going to college... It is probably safe to assume that Warhol went to a third lecture and concert given by Cage in Pittsburgh, with the pianist William Masselos."

The lecture/recitals mentioned by Lavigne took place at the Outlines Gallery in Pittsburgh. The Outlines Gallery had opened in October 1941 at 341 Boulevard of the Allies but moved to the Pittsburgh Playhouse at 222 Craft Avenue in early December 1943 where they shared the exhibition rooms of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. By May 1947, the year that the gallery would close, they were located at 230 Oliver Avenue. According to the artist Philip Pearlstein who knew Warhol in college and would moved to New York with him in 1949, both he and Warhol attended events at the gallery. Pearlstein later described the gallery events as "marvelous programs" where he and Warhol "saw Maya Deren, filmmaker and dancer, a lot of experimental film, John Cage, and all of these were exciting...'"

In addition to the dates offered by Lavigne, The May 24, 1946 issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also announced an upcoming performance by Cage and Merce Cunningham taking place on June 19, 1946. Gazette journalist, Harold V. Cohen, writing in his column "The Drama Desk" noted that "Merce Cunningham, the brilliant American dancer, and his accompanist, John Cage, will join the Genevieve Jones faculty here for the month of June. Miss Jones is also presenting them in a recital at the Playhouse the night of June 19." An online source, A John Cage Compendium by Paul van Emmerik (in collaboration with Herbert Henck and András Wilheim) indicates that Cage spent the summer of 1946 in Pittsburgh, living at 5851 Forbes Street, and lists a Cage/Cunningham performance at the Pittsburgh Playhouse on June 25, 1946 "presented by Genevieve Jones" which featured the repetitive Satie-like composition Experiences No. 1 as well Meditation to Tossed as it is Untroubled, Root of an Unfocus, Spontaneous Earth, Totem Ancestor and The Unavailable Memory of. (See Notes on John Cage, Erik Satie's Vexations and Andy Warhol's Sleep.)

The gallery is also referred to in Andy Warhol 365 Takesbook by the staff of the Warhol Museum although it is unclear from their description whether Warhol actually met Cage at the time or was just exposed to his work.

From Andy Warhol 365 Takesbook by the staff of the Andy Warhol Museum:

"Warhol attended college from 1945 to 1949, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in pictorial design from Carnegie Tech's highly regarded Department of Painting and Design... Warhol worked hard at school and was a serious student of contemporary art. He made the time to visit a local avant-garde art gallery called Outlines, where he was exposed to the work of such cutting-edge artists, architects, and musicians as John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Marcel Duchamp, and Joseph Cornell." (AWM7)

The same gallery is referred to in the singular as "The Outline" in the Warhol biography Loner at the Ball: The Life of Andy Warholbook.

From Loner at the Ball: The Life of Andy Warhol by Fred Lawrence Guiles:

"Although Pittsburgh was a far cry from Greenwich Village, it did have its 'Villagy' types. Some were the genuine article, like the Balcomb Greenes... The Greenes (he called his wife 'Peter,' although she was Gertrude Glass, the sculptress) had helped a local woman, Betty Rockwell Raphael, open a gallery called 'The Outline,' where every Sunday night night during the fabulous summer of 1947 the avant-gardists... would convene for a cultural event." (LB39)

Balcomb Greene would later arrange for Warhol and Philip Pearlstein to sublease their first apartment in New York when Pearlstein and Warhol moved there there together in 1949. (DB25) According to another of Warhol's classmates in college, Bennard B. Perlman, Warhol studied under Greene during his senior year (1948 - 1949) at Carnegie Tech. Perlman notes that "During his senior year Andy and his classmates had the artist Balcomb Greene as an instructor. Greene had recently been named by ARTnews as one of the ten best artists in the United States... But at Carnegie Tech his talent seemed wasted when he was assigned to teach History of Painting and Sculpture." (BP161) Greene had been an associate of the Abstract Expressionists in New York prior to teaching at Carnegie Tech. and was one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists in 1936.

John Cage biographer, David Revill, had a slightly different take on Warhol meeting Cage. Revill, in his biography of Cage, indicated that the musician appeared at something called the "Outliners Club" which Revill seemed to think was located in Oakland California.

From The Roaring Silence: John Cage: A Life by David Revill

"Over the summer of 1948 Cunningham and Cage canvassed a number of colleges for bookings. Cage lectured to the Outliners Club at Carnegie Tech, Oakland, in the Bay area of California; among those present was Andy Warhola, a second-year student soon to abandon his concluding vowel." (JC94)

Cage's biographer seems to be confusing the Oakland area of Pittsburgh with Oakland, California as Carnegie Tech. was located in Pittsburgh. The "Outliners' Club" referred to is most likely the Outline or Outlines Gallery in Pittsburgh. Revill does not list the source of his information.

Revill notes that Warhol was present at Cage's lecture in the summer of 1948 which is interesting because it was later in 1948 that Warhol produced his first repetitive images and the imagery was musically oriented. Warhol's front cover illustration for the November 1948 issue of the Carnegie Tech student publication, Cano, featured repetitive images of a violinist, with each image slightly different than the next - much in the same way that he would later preserve the imperfections of his silk screen repetitions in his Pop work from the early sixties. Whether or not the Cano cover was influenced by Warhol having heard a lecture by Cage earlier in the same year (or the previous year) is ultimately conjecture. Warhol often played down the influence that other artists or artistes had on his work. Although it is clear that Warhol was, at least, aware of modern music during his senior year at college, as exemplified by his membership in Carnegie Tech's modern dance group and his use of music-related imagery the same year, he denied ever being influenced by Cage's theories. When asked in 1985, for instance, whether his repetitive Pop imagery of the early '60s was "coming out of John Cage and concepts of musical seriality," Warhol replied enigmatically "I didn't know he [Cage] did serial things... I didn't know about music." (KG324)

Gary Comenas
Warholstars/2009

to: c. SUMMER 1948 (or 1947?): ANDY WARHOL MEETS JOHN CAGE

to: Notes on John Cage, Erik Satie's Vexations and Andy Warhol's Sleep

 

Andy Warhol