Warhol and class re-visited in professor’s new book


Julia Nugent, Staff Writer

Museums, some say, is where art goes to die. Hung on white walls and viewed from afar, art can sometimes seem out of touch with everyday life.

In his new book “Warhol’s Working Class,” UVM art history professor Anthony Grudin explores the ways in which Andy Warhol captured, redefined and sensationalized the American working class.

He will discuss the book Jan. 31 at Phoenix Books in Burlington.

At the event, Grudin will explain that “Warhol’s Working Class” is primarily a book about the ways in which Warhol and his work engaged questions of social class and cultural egalitarianism.

“It’s my thesis in the book that Warhol and his work took up these questions in sophisticated and intense ways,” he siad.

Grudin suggests that Warhol was more sophisticated than most of his peers, but that he was also deeply ambivalent.

As an art historian, Grudin studies various artists, but the book focuses solely on the works of Warhol.

“I was drawn to write the book when I came across archival evidence,” Grudin said.

Warhol’s most famous paintings, including those featuring Campbell’s Soup, were tied to the working class during their first years on exhibition, he said.

This contradicted the conventional interpretation, which was that the subject matter was generically middle-class or “American.”

Although Grudin’s classes at UVM just scratch the surface of Warhol and pop art, he attempts to touch on the book’s broader themes, these include social class, identity, sexuality and the tension between egalitarianism and hierarchy.

“Warhol presented the idea that anyone is capable of being creative, anything is capable of being the subject of art and everyone is capable of appreciating art,” Grudin said.

Todd Gross, the manager of Phoenix Books said he is excited to have Grudin visit the store.

“We think giving folks a chance to meet, listen to and learn from authors is of supreme importance to a civil society and is one of the key reasons to support a local independent bookstore in your community,” Gross said.  

Phoenix Books brings authors to Burlington from around the world, he said.

“We also provide local authors with a platform to celebrate their achievements in front of their neighbors, friends and family,” Gross said.

Grudin will speak about his book, “Warhol’s Working Class” Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Books.

Tickets cost $3 and include a 5 percent discount off the book. Proceeds will go to Vermont Foodbank.