In a 1967 interview with Gretchen Berg he said, “if you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.” Apparently, he took the renowned art critic Henry Geldzahler’s advice to heart when he told Warhol that he would be able to sell his work better if he created a persona for himself.///
In simple terms, a persona is a social figure that one presents to the outside world. A constructed identity that hides one’s true self. A mask that can have a physical or behavioral appearance, and it is this appearance that represents the individual. It is not without reason that writing Warhol’s biography is a difficult task. Instead of being a reliable source for his biography, everything Warhol said and did is fabricated and nothing can be cited. He has carefully selected and put together everything, and nothing has been considered insignificant and small, so that his persona (or more correctly, personas) is believable. He has different personas for different groups: Warhol in his circle of friends, Warhol among art critics, Warhol with his audience, our Warhol, and their Warhol. In the same interview with Gretchen Berg he says, “I’d prefer to remain a mystery, I never like to give my background and, anyway, I make it all up different every time I’m asked.”
The key to understanding Warhol is to understand the importance of persona in his life, it is Andy Warhol’s persona that is familiar to us and not Warhol as he truly was.
There are not many ways for depicting the true face behind this persona, it may be helpful to analyze his countless works, flip through his numerous notes, review his interviews with his many friends, or to examine the contents of his storage-like rooms where anything can be found. Reviewing his childhood and education could also be useful. But for Warhol’s audience in this corner of the world, there is limited access to all of these sources of information, therefore in addition to the published material about him, the most practical way for understanding him is to read his work in a different manner.
For this, one could examine the structure of the work and search for the evolution of Warhol’s views in the few works that can be displayed here’ something that has been done many times before. Or Warhol could also be examined in the context of art history in order to further distinguish his position, even though it is already quite distinct. There are also other things that could be done. But the fact is that Warhol’s dirty, wrinkled mask must be removed once and for all, so that new meaning can be found in all these different “could haves”. Dust has been setting on his mask for years and now it is no longer recognizable even as a persona. It is a combination of reality and fantasy. It is the aggregation of all the different Warhol’s in our minds in this particular geography, combined with legends from our local culture.
The “persona” exhibition, a collection of Andy Warhol’s work at Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, is an opportunity to remove layers covering Warhol’s face by taking a different look at his work. His face is that of a pioneer artist who was the embodiment of Joseph Beuys’s ideas about social sculpture” where the artist’s life is his artwork. And the artist’s lived experiences blur the distance between art and life. Warhol’s attempts at continuously reinventing his persona became his life’s work and the only creation that constantly appeared in his places. Warhol’s artworks are reproductions of his many personas.