Freddie Herko and the Memento Mori of Andy Warhol

I bought a Rhinegold serving tray at the Big Chicken Barn today and now it is a graveyard of empty Pabst cans.  A cigar is failing valiantly at keeping the mosquitos at bay.

It should be remembered that The Palace of the Dragon Prince, performed on May 1 and 2 of 1964, is not Herko's last dance. That occurred on October 27, 1964. Johnny Dodd swore that Herko rose four feet before he plummeted to his death.  Fittingly since it has been cloudy all day here in Maine, I can only tell the sun is setting because the day is being laid to rest with the purple robe of the Dragon Prince.  Pardon the purple prose; it must be the Blue Ribbons talking.

I know that Diane Di Prima is the best source for information on Herko.  Her Recollections of My Life as A Woman provide the most informative and intimate account (the Freddie Poems are even more intimate), but I always find my self gravitating, like a moth is to my cigar. to the work of Andy Warhol.  Most specifically to the screen test of Herko.  Until tonight I thought that was because Warhol captured Herko on film and, despite the limits of the test, in motion.  Blinking, fidgeting, smoking, Herko is seemingly alive. 

Now as I am surrounded by darkness watching yet again the screen test ( and I am not so sure.  Herko disappears into shadows and threatens to slip off the screen.  The smoke from his cigarette has more of a presence than he does.  Focusing on the cigarette and its smoke, Warhol captures the last moments of a condemn man.  The test was screened on December 7, 1964, at the New Yorker Theatre and is as much a funeral ceremony (along with the white Flower painting exhibited at Castelli Gallery in November dedicated to Herko) as the one documented below in the mimeo program.  Not surprisingly there was also a ceremony at the Factory.

Herko's portrait in film seemingly stands apart from most of the other screen tests.  Herko's test harkens back to the Death and Disaster series.  Herko belongs with Marilyn.  Herko waits to be placed on the electric chair.  But then again all the screen tests suggest death.  All the subjects will never again be as Warhol captured them and they will forever be doomed to be remembered by Warhol treatment of them.  Warhol as portaitist is never far from the emblemer or the make-up artist of corpses.

Behind every soup can is a can of tunafish.



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