Andy Warhol, who infamously stated that, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” was undoubtedly one of the first people to amalgamate his creativity with pop culture.
The concept of having 15 minutes of fame is seemingly part of modern culture; we are saturated with reality TV, YouTube, Instagram and Vine stars taking advantage of the prevalence of social media in order to gain recognition rapidly. However, Andy Warhol, who infamously stated that, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” was undoubtedly one of the first people to amalgamate his creativity with pop culture.
William Linich, Jr, dubbed Billy Name by Warhol, was born in Poughkeepsie, upstate New York in 1940. His youth was plagued with the Second World War and his formative years were sculpted by the aftermath. The post-war period represented a booming epoch centred around youth and beat culture, a brand-new era where expression, freedom and tolerance took root and has continued to grow up to this day.
“Here Billy, you do the photography,”
Billy Name met Warhol whilst waiting tables at Serendipity 3 in New York in 1959. They soon after became lovers and began collaborating, Name decorating the latter’s hat factory on 54th Street which evolved into the stable of Warhol’s superstars and Name’s celluloid chronicling from 1964 – 1970. By covering the walls in aluminium foil, Name was responsible for ‘silverising’ Warhol’s art. He revealed that his inspiration for painting the factory walls silver and covering them in foil was inspired by him being a witness to the repainting of the Mid-Hudson Bridge when he was a kid. The foil was used to mimic the metal around the tins of Campbell’s soup and was also used to cover singer-songwriter Nico in a dreamy haze of elegance, in a way similar to how a camera lens captures and reflects our vision, the foil distorting and warping light.
Name became the self-proclaimed foreman of The Factory, and consistently lived up to this description. As well as logging the artwork and shooting films there, Billy Name was The Factory’s archivist, secretary, security guard and electrician. In the foreword of his eponymous book, journalist Glenn O’Brien described Name as the man that Warhol relied on, which was true; Warhol counted on Name to document the development of The Factory. As lovers and friends, their relationship somewhat amounted to a creative marriage where Andy Warhol could sculpt his brilliance with Name acting as his solid foundation. In fact, Warhol once declared, “Here Billy, you do the photography,” which was a statement indicative of the amount of trust he kept in Name’s work.
Name was also impossibly in tune with Warhol’s obsession of brand iconography and its lurid undertones. A garish silver bridge is as loudly placed in front of the masses as is an ad for soup or a portrait of Marilyn Monroe. By the time The Factory relocated to Union Square in 1968, Name, a victim of an amphetamine addiction and maybe high on the pace of an ever-changing world, spent most of his time in the dark room where he sought happiness in eye-catching images from the pop culture torrent.
Billy and Andy parted ways in 1970 when Name ventured west and became a performance poet. However, his time at The Factory and his unofficial title as one of 1960s New York’s definitive artists will always be remembered. Name’s pictures of The Factory’s superstars created a timeline of the era, and his famous photos of Bob Dylan highlight the folk singer at the height of his popularity and influence during the push for peace in the 60s. Billy Name’s work was also immortalised by millions when he took the photos used for the album art of The Velvet Underground’s self-titled album, Lou Reed even mentioning Name in the track ‘That’s the Story of My Life’.
After passing away earlier this year, The Milk Gallery announced that the photographer had been ill with diabetes for many years. The gallery stated, “It is with tremendous sadness that we would like to announce that our dear friend and iconic artist Billy Name has begun his next great adventure. We mourn the loss of this important cultural figure and are thankful to have had the opportunity to work with him.”
Billy Name’s legacy is one that the pop art world would be ashamed to omit. Contributing to the great and good of New York’s burgeoning art scene, he acted as an inspiration for Lou Reed, John Lennon, Yoko Ono (having worked alongside Name and the Fluxus Group before he met Warhol) and David Bowie.
The 60s were a time when large metropolises beckoned to the young innovators to make their mark in a world craving evolution and movement. Art and music were the original media utilised by young artistic-types to declare ‘here I am’, and this same declaration is omnipresent on social media. However, a man who predicted the 15 minutes of fame culture has ironically lasted far longer and the man behind the scenes, the late Billy Name, will be remembered as one of the leading forces in pop art for years to come.
Written by Brad James