Saturday, April 2, 2016

Billy Name

Of the many faces who passed through Andy Warhol's Silver Factory in the swinging 1960s and 70s, Billy Name was undoubtedly its most important unsung hero. As the story goes, when Warhol first picked up a movie camera, finished with painting forever, he thrust his old Pentax at Name, with the instructions: "Billy, you do the photography now, because I'm going to do movies." Name had an eye for taking photographs, and he duly assumed the role of unofficial photographer in his years hanging out at the Factory. "As I recall he was always at the factory," John Cale remembers. "The pimpernel of the silver ballroom – sleeping there as a wide-eyed guard, then much later disappearing into his room for months at a time only to emerge, to take pictures, then retreat back into silent oblivion."

Name not only documented the Factory, but also played a pivotal role in constructing it. Previously a lighting designer, his first encounter with amphetamines was instrumental in the birth of his signature silver interior decorating style, and he employed it with abandon in the film and theater sets he worked on throughout the 1960s. When Warhol visited Name’s apartment to attend one of his famous hair-cutting parties soon afterwards – Name’s father had been a barber – he invited Name to recreate the style at his new loft, a former hat factory on East 47th Street. "Andy didn’t just see a guy's place and think, 'That’s a real kook – he's got foil all over the place,'" Name recalls. "He saw that I had done an installation."

Name duly hung the walls with aluminium foil, and sprayed everything with Krylon paint. The Silver Factory was born. The silver of the factory walls reverberates in Name's photography – a seemingly never-ending series of lunar faces peering out from between the Factory walls; building installations, making prints, or having parties. "I'm very much interested in portraiture, not only of people but of space, or people in spaces. When I take a picture I'm usually looking at a certain structural composition of the whole thing that is going on live, and when it's just perfect my finger pushes the button... The camera, when I first started using it, wasn't just about snapshots. I could see things that were matched to my aesthetic framework in that click."