The films that Andy Warhol made in the 1960s are now recognized as among the most important works of his career. One of the most ambitious projects of Warhol's cinema is the "Screen Tests", a series of 472 short, black-and-white portraits of Warhol's friends, colleagues, and acquaintances filmed over a period of three years, from 1964 through 1966. The 189 people in this series constitute a veritable who's who of the 1960s avant-garde, including art world celebrities (Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, James Rosenquist, Marisol); icons of popular culture (Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Mama Cass Elliot); Factory superstars (Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Ondine, Billy Name, Paul Morrissey, Gerard Malanga); underground filmmakers (Jonas Mekas, Barbara Rubin, Jack Smith, Harry Smith); avant-garde dancers (Freddy Herko. Lucinda Childs, Kenneth King); poets (Ted Berrigan, John Giorno, Ron Padgett, Joe Brainard); art historians and critics (Susan Son-tag, Grace Glueck, Robert Pincus-Witten, Barbara Rose); musicians (Eric Andersen, Lou Reed, John Cale, and other members of the Velvet Underground); representatives of high society (Isabel Eberstadt, Jane Holzer) and high fashion (Donyale Luna, Kenneth Jay Lane, Bea Feitler); as well as drag queens (Mario Montez), speed freaks, teenage dropouts, and other countercultural figures.
Taken as a whole, the "Screen Tests" are a conceptual portrait of a New York era - the complex, interconnected avant-garde art world of the mid-1960s. They also offer a reflected portrait of Warhol himself - his friendships and connections, his egalitarianism and his ambition, his fascination with personality and the human face, his eye for talent and for beauty, his mastery of the photographic, cinematic image.
Since Warhol withdrew his films from public circulation in the early 1970s, much of his cinema has been shrouded in myth. This book, the first installment in the two-volume authorized catalogue raisonne of Warhol's cinema, is the result of more than a dozen years of original research by Callie Angell, Adjunct Curator of the Andy Warhol Film Project at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Angell, who has worked closely with The Museum of Modern Art since 1991 on the preservation of Warhol's movies and has had unprecedented access to the original films, has identified and illustrated all of the "Screen Tests" for the first time. All of the film materials have been catalogued, with film stocks identified and dated, and other archival details, such as Warhol's hand-written notes, recorded as well. In addition to descriptions of all the "Screen Tests" and the people in them, the history and making of these films are detailed in a lengthy introduction. Additional chapters are devoted to the conceptual series and compilations, which Warhol created from the "Screen Tests" ("The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women", "The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys", "Fifty Fantastics and Fifty Personalities") as well as a previously unknown seven-hour serial portrait of Philip Fagan ("Six Months"). Another chapter catalogues the reels of assembled "Screen Test prints", which were projected behind the "Velvet Underground" during performances of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
The result is a detailed and accurate picture of Warhol's working methods as a filmmaker, a record that should overturn many of the myths about Warhol's cinema that persisted during the years when his films were unavailable.