Thursday, May 20, 2010

Andy Warhol at the JSMA

    I went back to the JSMA last night for a second view of the Andy Warhol/Gus Van Sant show.  This time I was accompanied by my friend Karol.  As we walked up to the museum there were several thousand small flags on the lawn
    I thought it was about the number of deaths in Iraq, as it has been in years past but this one was about children being sold into slavery in the U.S.   I recently read a story by Dan Rather on this very subject.  Disturbing.  Unfortunately most of these little flags had Jerry's or Home Depot printed on them making it look more like a advertisement for them.  Here's another shot...

    We went into the JSMA this time to hear the curator's talk about the show.  Turns out the guy I had thought was Gus' lover was in actuality one of the curators.  You can see them both, one standing by the 140 polaroids taken by Gus VS, the other up front talking about the show.

    They pointed out during the talk that most of Gus VS's work was done in black and one because he could get a negative from that particular polaroid film and enlarge it but most of Andy's polaroids were in color so that he could use them to inform his silkscreens.  Also Andy was smitten with a polaroid camera called the Big Shot and the museum just happened to have it.
   It might not be that easy to tell in the picture but what a huge and awkward camera.
   In the show, at least for Andy's side of it, the curators arranged the silkscreens by the polaroids that informed them.  For me, as a artist, I found adding the depth of an artist's process into the show made it better than most shows.  I enjoy seeing how an artist gets from idea to finished piece the way a carpenter might like to know another's experience with certain types of wood.
    The first series of photos are all Mick Jagger.  There are three of them...

    The curator talked about Andy literally undressing Mick with his camera.  From what I can tell Andy did that with all the people he worked with.  Sexuality played a huge role in his work as did idol worship.  (It makes me wonder what Andy would have thought about shows like American Idol if he were still alive.) 
   Following is the silkscreen that came from the 3 polaroids above..
  The next subject of Andy's work is Debra Harry who was the lead singer for Blondie.  Here's a few polaroids that Andy took of her..
   and here is the print that he made of her.  Everything is in black and white excepting her huge red lips.  The curators talked about how silkscreening something reduces it down to an image with the fewest of details and how that process was perfect for making a piece iconic. 
      The next subject of Andy's camera was Truman Capote.   This first one is the polaroid...
  and the next one is the silkscreen that became of it...
   It's interesting he has completely erased the body in the print and makes me wonder if Warhol simply did not find him attractive or if he thought the hat, the eyes and the hand with a cigarette defined the man.  Or both.
     The next silkscreen is of just a torso, duplicated with red lines accentuating the gestures.  We know more about the pose or the way the artist feels about a male chest than we do about the identity of the subject...
   The last three silkscreens of Andy Warhol's are ones that are not famous and also some of my favorites.  The subject matter is fruit.  The museum did not have the polaroids to go with these silkscreens so I just have pictures of the art.
    There were a few other exhibits going on at the same time, most notable was the camera work of Weegie and the installation work of Nam June Paik.  I was impressed by both of them and I hope if you make it to the show you will make time to see these two other exhibits.  Very worthwhile in my opinion.
  Lastly I would like to mention the show in Portland, at the PDX Contemporary Art on Flanders street.  It is of Gus Van Sant's 'cutups' and goes through May 29th.   As always your comments are greatly appreciated....  Yona c. Riel

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