Monday, September 18, 2006

Andy Warhol at the AGO
Stars, Deaths and
Disasters, 1962-64

as a disclaimer here i really know little about 'art'.
i mean i visit museums when i'm on the road but i really don't have the patience for it. buildings and dead people i do much better.

pretty decent exhibit. limited by space (low ceilings) we didn't get everything that has been presented in this show as it travels around. but what was there was worth the hour and change it took to see. i'm pretty sure the art world has a language all it's own to describe these things. i'm not familiar with the dialect but i'll give it a try.

here's a zip file containing jpegs of the program.

or cut and paste this as Blogger seems a little wonky.

lots of parallels to dylan, as an artist, even if he's in a somewhat different genre. while both have 'created' what has become identifiable as 'their art', the works in exhibit here were constantly referred to as 'found art', not unlike a good deal of Bob's catalogue.

the vast majority of the pieces were silk-screens created from either studio photo's, news photo's or simply, personal photo's. even the movies were just captures, not productions. seems like a mirror.

the show starts with a 5 minute loop of Empire, an 8 hour movie of the Empire State building. just the Empire State building. not the Empire State building being happy. or the Empire State building being sad. or, and this would be cool, the Empire State building being stoic.
just the Empire State building being. have no idea why they felt the need to make a 5 minute loop in place of just running the film.

then the wonderful Elizabeth Taylor, captured on silk-screen in various tones. a studio picture from National Velvet. she was a pretty one.

a captivating Robert Maplethorpe portrait of Andy rounds out the first three displays.

these three pieces we get even before we enter the exhibit proper. we've picked up the annoying cell phones we have to carry from display to display but haven't turned our tickets in yet.

in front of the next exhibit I spent a couple minutes thinking Troy Donahues real last name was diptych. the Troy Diptych, 1962, precedes the Elizabeth Taylor silk-screen by a year. David Cronenburg is supplying the narrative for this exhibition and he thinks Andy found Troy, kinda cute. much is made of the different shades of the same silk-screened photo, showing the possible range of emotion present in all of us...from light and sunny to dark and gloomy. some photo's, from Troy's studio, stolen by Andy, are almost obliterated by the light, others by the dark. we have programs that fix that now.

the first moving picture is 58 minutes of the Couch at the Factory. exhibitionists are welcomed. apparently this camera sat in front of the couch and all were invited to turn it on and do as they wish. mostly it was explicit film of young males coupling while someone, or someones, moved in an out of frame doing something or nothing. it's dated 1964 and i gotta believe the people we've come to know out of the Warhol community, didn't spend too many minutes on this couch. the film was filled with anonymous characters.

can't remember what "red disaster" was about. the first 'disaster' pic, having already witnessed supernova's in Troy Donahue and stars in Elizabeth Taylor. do remember that the descriptive narrative got it wrong...the red panel is on the left, not on the right. the right panel contained the Electric Chair...that was it. with the ironic "silence" sign above the door. that was a cool merging of images. after the juice all there will be is silence.

then we start to get into the repetitive and redundant part of Warhol's art. Silver Liz as Cleopatra, followed by Blue Liz as Cleopatra. again, another studio photo, replicated in multiple silk-screen frames. all the diptych's (which i've learned is not Troy's last name) have multiple panels, simulating 'frames' in a movie, none of them the same...simulating frames in a movie. all with different lighting...simulating frames in a movie. i had to stand there and listen to the description for 4 minutes or else i would have run by them quickly so they could simulate frames in a movie.

next exhibit consisted of the 'screen tests'. Dennis Hopper is doing some of the narrative here, talking about Andy turning the camera on, with about 3 1/2 minutes of film in it, and leaving the room. your instructions were to not move, not emote, not blink. just present your face. i watched 4 minutes of what I thought was Sam Waterston, though he's not listed as the one of the featured screen plays. they had too many options to wait around for Bob's.

next, the Elvis silkscreens, Elvis I in colour, Elvis II in black and white. photo is taken from the studio material for the movie Flaming Star. much is made on the narrative about the fading silkscreens, as you move from left to right, representing the fading of one's life (the reference to the song/movie Flaming Star) and of Elvis' fame. or, when you use a stamp 4 times, you run out of ink.

we double up on Sleep. which is usually a great concept. on the one side we have 21 minutes of the 5 hour movie, some hairy chested gent breathing. in case we missed anything, we have a still picture to caputre the moment.

have we done death yet? well we have if you consider most of the famous subjects have passed on, including the artist. but now it's presented in a more disturbing manner in Foot and Tire. a newspaper photo, another silk-screen diptych. horrifying if you consider the context. a simple boot underneath a pair of tractor-trailer tires. i don't want my fifteen minutes on the front of a newspaper, thanks.

Warhol's a bit of a fetishist. if he had a boner for anyone besides Liz it was probably Jackie. thing is, once you've done 16 Jackies (1964) what was the purpose behind 9 Jackies, later in the same year? is that like a 'dub' or a remix? apparently the art here is found in immortalizing the widow instead of the victim. much like Liz she is bigger than real life and the images are sobering.

Miriam Davidson was commissioned to take a picture of herself, dressed like Jackie, in a photobooth. the resulting silk-screens take the homage in the previous set of photo's from touching to eerie.

next moving picture is Haircut #1. the accompanying narrative, some coiffeur talking about cutting Andy's wigs into different contemporary styles, is more interesting than the 27 minutes of falling hair. actually, 27 minutes of falling hair may have been better, we just got a long shot of clipping, evocative of that hillbilly Quest thing Bob did.

lots more Jackie pics, then we're on to more anonymous dead people. Five Deaths on Orange (and the follow up sets, Five Deaths on Turqouise, Five Deaths on Yellow, and the minimalist, Five Deaths), was another newspaper photo transferred to silk screen. the car is overturned after an horrific crash. i see only 4 people and two of them look like they are still moving.

the next segment is three pieces together, two movies with a still in between. the still, Disaster #6, is another, well actually the same, electric chair, in a different colour. the movie on the left is the 41 minute capture of Blowjob. it's a close shot of a male's face on the receiving end of a blowjob. we don't see the person performing. it's an interesting idea all by itself....but 41 minutes?!??!?!?!?! c'mon, who are we kidding?

the film on the right is also an interesting idea. most movies spend an hour and a half leading up to "The Kiss". this movie is 54 minutes of different couples kissing. fuck all that set up stuff. let's get to the emotion.

1947 White (sometimes called Suicide or Fallen Body) was maybe the most striking off all the diptych's. a beautiful, curvaceous, babe of a woman has jumped off the Empire State building and landed, totally unspoiled or unmarked, face up, on the hood of a limousine.
her clothes, impeccable. her pose, senuous. the curves of her body outlined and accentuated
by the crumpled curves of the steel roof of the car, her deathbed. some creepy even liking this work, but it's easy to look at.

this is juxtaposed by another set of silkscreens illuminating the totally capricous nature of death. photo's of two woman who died of food poisoning. the product, A&P canned Tuna, the caption "did a leak kill them?" nobody we know, nobody we should care about. unless we eat tuna. the prominence of this canned food product is a little smile inducing as it's so unlike the infamous Campbell's soup picture.

Saturday Disaster is another horrific car crash we get to peek in on. one body sent through the torn roof of the car, hanging over the metal frame. the other, bloodied and lying dead on the road, half inside-half outside the car. i hate driving.

Race Riot consists of a series of familiar pictures of police dogs chasing blacks. i guess something had to be said. the images are way too familiar to be shocking.

a couple semi-anonymous men appear in Most Wanted Men No. 2 and No. 6. #2 looks like he was arrested before Congress clarified the rules. #6 didn't have a mark on him.

the audio portion of our tour does not include anything about the last two pieces. a strange oversight. next to 1947 White the most striking silk screen was White Burning Car III. an overturned car, severely crashed, in flames. on the telephone pole, a young male, either hung there, or impaled on the telephone repair man steel foot studs.

(after having done a little research I came across this description of the exhibit. it explains the last picture and I concur with the opinion expressed.)
"Two paintings exclusive to this show embody this focus (on death): White Burning Car III (1963), depicting a man impaled on a telegraph pole, and 1947-White (1963), showing a woman who jumped from the top of the Empire State Building embedded in the roof of a limousine. "

at the end, a self portrait.

just a quick, interesting, glimpse into a complex personality.
perhaps more a personality than an artist.
the art is in convincing others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wasn't that impressed. It's the AGO, shouldn't have the showing been larger?