Andy Warhol’s collection of photographs and personal commentaries are a love letter to America by one of the most quintessentially American artists of the 20th century.
America, originally published in 1985, presents photographs taken by Andy Warhol during his travels across the United States over the previous decade. His commentary reflects on multiple facets of US life, including money, , death, the labor market, New York City street life, provincial oddities, artists, politicians, washed-up film stars, homeless people, the American dream, and even principles for choosing lovers.
Obsessed with images, he carried a camera everywhere he went. With equal interest, he would shoot celebrities (Ronald Reagan, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Jean-Michel Basquiat) and disenfranchised outsiders, granting them their "fifteen minutes of fame." The photographs make a "collective portrait" of a nation that, according to Warhol, accepts everyone seeking to become part of it: "We all came here from somewhere else, and everybody who wants to live in America and obey the law should be able to come too, and there's no such thing as being more or less American, just American." Both the text and the camera's point of view reveal Warhol's democratic leanings, as he ponders the rights of immigrant workers, the dire situation of the homeless, real-estate prices in New York, and volatile politics.
Pop art aesthetics permeate these spontaneous photographs of urban life taken from offbeat vantage points. The artist's eye catches grotesquely dressed strangers, kitschy storefronts and signboards, the handwritten messages of the homeless, slogans carried by protesters, and a variety of incidents on the streets, at once odd, controversial, outlandish, and touching.