Thursday, September 27, 2012

Regarding Warhol at the Met

Red Jackie
Andy Warhol
Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 1964
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
Copyright 2012, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol is an artist that everyone thinks they know. Even though I've seen quite a few exhibitions of Warhol's work over the years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years" presented a fresh perspective on a seemingly overdone topic.

With a clearly defined curatorial perspective of considering how Warhol impacted subsequent generations of artists, this exhibition presents five thematic groupings that showcase Warhol's work alongside contemporary artists that have been influenced by Warhol's example. The five thematic sections are titled: "Daily News: From Banality to Disaster," "Portraiture: Celebrity and Power," "Queer Studies: Shifting Identities," "Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality," and "No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle". This grouping covers the major themes of Warhol's work -- consumer society, death, celebrity, queer identity, appropriation, and spectacle -- linking them to sixty contemporary artists including Ai Weiwei, Edward Ruscha, Kelley Walker, Nan Goldin, Jeff Koons, Chuck Close, Richard Gober and others. Seeing Warhol in relation to other artists that adopted similar themes or modes of working made it clear that Warhol had a profound impact on contemporary art.

Alex Katz, 1964
Oil on canvas
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Lita Hornick, 1991
Courtesy of Alex Katz, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Although fashion was not a theme of the exhibition, I compiled a fairly long list of examples on display that linked to fashion. Some of the artists on that list included: Cindy Sherman, Elizabeth Petyon, Alex Katz, Richard Avedon, Gerhard Richtar, Julian Schnabel, Hans Haacke, Karen Kilimnik, Andreas Gursky, and Maurizio Catielan.

Marie Antoinette out for a Walk at her petite Hermitage, France in 1750
Karen Kilimnik, 2005
Oil on canvas
Private collection, promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago
Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York
Although most of these artists are well known, there were three artists that incorporated fashion as a mode of artistic expression that I had not before appreciated.  Karen Kilimnik depicts Paris Hilton as a stand-in for the doomed Marie Antoinette out for a walk at her petite Hermitage, France in 1750 (which prior to the birth of the real Marie Antoinette). This painting critiques luxury and celebrity and uses fashion as a mode of disconnecting from time. Deborah Kass painting called "Double Ghost Yentl (My Elvis)" from 1997 in which she paid homage to Warhol's Elvis portrait and depicted Barbara Streisand as Yentl. In her artist statement, she wrote: "A woman who dresses as a man in order to study sacred texts felt like the perfect metaphor for being a woman artist." In Richard Gober's photograph "Untitled 1992-93", he made a self portrait wearing a custom made bridal gown (made for his husky frame), adopting bridal attire as a sign of purity. He wrote: "there is no comparable costume for a man that symbolizes this moment; we've only created this outfit for women". Kass and Gober used clothing as a means of depicting gender, highlighting that gender is a constructed identity.

This show was a joy to behold. Tightly edited and offering the best examples of Warhol's work and clear links to contemporary artists who have been inspired by Warhol, the show flows from one room to the next in a coherent and intelligent manner. The best shows present the visitor with something that they didn't know before, and this show offers just that.

Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until December 31, 2012.

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