Decades after Warhol’s Factory, Michael Netter’s Painting Practice Is Still Going Strong

From Polaroids to the internet, technological innovations have influenced and shaped countless artists. In the case of Michael Netter, whose new exhibition, “Cryptographics,” is on view at ACA Galleries in New York, the creative catalyst was the Sony Portapak, the world’s first portable video system.

The Portapak was introduced in 1970, when Netter, then 22, was just starting out his career as a self-taught painter. Coming from a family of Hollywood moviemakers, Netter was naturally drawn to moving images, and he recognized the potential of video as a storytelling medium. He scraped together funds to purchase the video system, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In short order, Netter started making video art. Then he was introduced to Andy Warhol, marking the start of an important three-year period in which Netter played the roles of protégé and collaborator with the Pop Art icon. However, even as he shot hundreds of videos at Warhol’s Factory—including video of David Bowie’s first visit to the space—Netter kept painting. Warhol approved.

Despite pivoting into a career as a corporate consultant, Netter’s painting practice continued, mostly in private. Now it’s the focus of “Cryptographics,” a rare showcase of his paintings completed since the early 1990s.

Graphic and boldly colorful, the work is rich with pop-culture references, from Popeye to Bob’s Big Boy to Alice in Wonderland. It’s hard to miss the Warhol connection.

“My style is intentionally elemental: unmannered, denotative, vernacular, iconographic and impersonal,” Netter has said. “I want my work to feel like it was found on street walls”—an effect he has certainly achieved in graffiti-like pieces such as Up Late, Little Food (1993) and Homo Erectus (1996). Though these paintings were created decades after his stint with Warhol, they serve as an intriguing companion to Netter’s video art and his colorful life in and out of the Factory.


—Bridget Gleeson


Michael Netter: Cryptographics” is on view at ACA Galleries, New York, Jun. 2–Jul. 29, 2016.

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