CR Exclusive: Moments from Grace Jones and Andy Warhol’s Factory Seen by Richard Bernstein

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Richard Bernstein’s bold and graphic artwork complements that of co-collaborator Andy Warhol so well that it is often mistaken for Warhol’s own. Yet it is Bernstein alone who transformed his iconic subjects into larger-than-life incarnations of themselves through pastels, stencils, and airbrushing. Bernstein’s work, which features the likes of Aretha Franklin, Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, and Yoko Ono, comes to life in Richard Bernstein: Starmaker, Andy Warhol’s Cover Artist by Roger and Mauricio Padilha.

With a foreword by Grace Jones, the book explores Bernstein’s legendary work, as well as his lesser known, rarely seen fine art, album covers, and editorial work. Intimate anecdotes and interviews with close friends and collaborators bring color to the man behind the celebrated portraits that have come to define the disco era in all of its glory. Bernstein was, after all, a fixture within fashion, art, and the Studio 54 world.

The American artist and art director quickly became an integral part of the Warhol Factory in the mid-1960’s, continuing to work with the group even after Warhol’s death. The men, often meeting in the back room of Max’s Kansas City, indeed, shared similar artistic and social habits, using hyper-colored graphics for work and psychedelics for pleasure.

Bernstein moved into the historic Hotel Chelsea in New York City in the early 1960’s, remaining at the landmark until his death in 2002. Surrounded by a number of notable musicians, artists, writers, and actors, Bernstein had a deep understanding of the zeitgeist of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This, in turn, allowed him to capture subjects like Jackie Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and Keith Haring with a keen understanding of each of their lasting legacies. Deeply connected in the art and fashion world, Bernstein was equally known for capturing and rubbing elbows with the stars. His brave artistic choices with subjects perhaps speak to the latter, no doubt combined with his bohemian lifestyle.

The book interlaces Bernstein’s incredible artwork with a biographical look at his life. With over 100 pages of his well-chronicled life and work, it’s virtually impossible to peruse through without recognizing a piece or two, whether Bernstein is a personal hero or complete stranger. That, perhaps, is the enduring legacy of Bernstein: it does not take knowing him completely, or even remotely, to recognize his art and influence.

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