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Review: Billy Name: The Silver Factory Years (1964-1968)

Photos by the man who chronicled Andy Warhol’s Factory and its denizens



"If I could make the world as pure/ And strange as what I see/ I'd put you in a mirror/ I'd put in front of me/ ... Linger on, your pale blue eyes" — Lou Reed

In 1964, Billy Name covered the inside of Andy Warhol's loft, "The Factory," with reflective tinfoil and silver paint, ushering in the pop maestro's iconic "silver age," which became symbolic of the artist and the crew of misfits who made art, movies and music within its gritty confines. Those silver surfaces proved a perfect metaphor for the way Warhol and his collaborators reflected the creative chaos of bohemian 1960s New York, a time and place embodied by the Factory's insurgent house band, The Velvet Underground, and its disarmingly deadpan dirges like "Pale Blue Eyes." At a time when patchouli-scented hippie utopianism was sweeping America, Lou Reed's ironic lyrics and German model-singer Nico's chilled-ether voice distilled poignantly poetic moments from the darker corners of city life.

But the Factory's creative ferment was real, and Billy Name was its photographic recording angel, as well as its chief fixer, bouncer, electrician and troubleshooter. His self-taught photographic flair enabled him to shape much of what the outside world saw, including most of the images on The Velvet Underground's album jackets. This show is a memento mori, a revelatory look at the glittering innards of the lost world that defined Warhol's transition from emerging pop artist to household name. Similarly, Reed, Nico, John Cale, Paul Morrissey, Holly Woodlawn (who died Dec. 6) and many others emerged from that tinfoil Camelot to become legends in their own right as Name, clicking away on the Pentax Warhol gave him, crafted photographs where they appear haphazardly arranged, for instance, on a ladder (pictured) or in any number of half-posed variations. His headshot portraits of Bob Dylan and Nico come across as fully realized rarities amid a more stream-of-consciousness milieu that constitute a profoundly insightful collective portrait of a unique, almost inexplicably influential, subculture.

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