Thursday, April 26, 2012

Warhol Logic

Oh, Art is too hard. 

Warhol logic that speaks volumes. The visionary artist raised more than a few eyebrows with his controversial art in the 1960s, reflecting his fascination with mass market culture in his works of art. Instead of enforcing the divide between high and low culture, Warhol made art for the masses. Taking iconic American products and reprinting them using a variety of techniques particularly silkscreening, the pop art legend made Art easy in more ways than one. Campbell soup cans, the banana, Marilyn Monroe and Chairman Mao are icons representative of the controversial artist.  

  Pop art is for everyone.

His iconic silkscreen prints of commercial day to day true-blue American items and celebrities are ubiquitous. Through a fascination with superficial things and a bizarre yet sincere take on life, the enigmatic artist took psychedelic to a whole new level. Warhol's talent allowed him to break boundaries time and time again and he never cared what others said, thought or wrote about him. As superficial and commercial as he seemed, Warhol was the antithesis of the American dream. His Death and Disaster series presented his perspective on the violence and brokenness of America in the 1960s under the varnished veneer of the promise that the rising middle class seemed to hold. He created a series on Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of her husband and captured scenes of violence on silkscreen. Recognition of the fragility of life was a running theme throughout Warhol's art. His haunting self-portrait in the hairstyle that he finally chose to stick to, silkscreened in dense and intense colours, shows the morbid preoccupation that Warhol had with the unpredictability of life.


I like boring things. 

Warhol had many self portraits but whilst self portraits often added a dimension to the artist in question or provided an insight into their twisted minds, Warhol's self portraits were often, just as they were, nothing more and nothing less. In retrospect, the artist was far from boring of course, from his early work with ladies shoes and advertising to his Silver Factory and forays into videography and film. To critics at that time, he might have been a one-dimensional socialite trying his hand at what he called Art. From the exhibition, I found Warhol hilarious. As 'socially diseased' as he thought he was (he labelled his condition as 'terminal'), he was definitely a refreshing change from the ordinary celebrity.


It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor's finger.  

Warhol was criticised repeatedly for his superficiality and fascination with Hollywood glamour as well as creating art for money especially when he started artworks of his "superstars". These personalities included Lauren Hutton, Joan Collins, Sylvester Stallone, Jimmy Carter, Liz Minneli, Karl Lagerfeld, Ozzy Osbourne, Brooke Shields, Bianca Jagger, Halston and Madonna. His single silkscreen portraits fetched prices from $20,000 and an additional $5,000 each for other colours. I guess he had to handle the upkeep of his Silver Factory and his lifestyle. The Silver Factory was a creative space (think start-up office with tin-foil decoration and video installations) where his superstars and collaborators could hang out. In a time when American society was seeing much fragmentation and change, the establishment of such a creative space was immensely exciting and helped to propel the image and reputation of Warhol in American society.


They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Warhol created what he called time capsules which were cardboard boxes labelled with numbers for archival purposed. In Time Capsule #51, there were vintage fashion magazines as well as some of Warhol's early works in drawing and writing. I have taken to the quirky poem on display about The Barbequer, faultless and meticulous in his skill on the grill. It was gorgeously illustrated of course. Warhol's mother played a huge part in his early works, as she often did the typography for him; him preferring her writing to his. Warhol was an undeniable eccentric, possibly due to the death of his father at 13 and a nervous disorder that made him stay indoors a lot during his childhood, which was probably where he picked up painting and drawing to pass time. Warhol says he loves photographs because the people in there never change even if the actual person does, how true. 


In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. 

More timeless Warhol logic. Warhol made this claim in his time and these simple yet thoughtful words are still relevant today. Who is to say when is this 'future', it could be now, it could be later and my future probably isn't your future and vice versa. Everything is a matter of perspective anyway and everyone is entitled to an opinion. Warhol made it clear that he saw things in the Warhol way and love it or hate it, it has made him the icon that he is today.


Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal certainly left more of an impression on me than the 47,000 ton shipwreck at the basement of MBS. Nonetheless, I bought into the gimmick of searching the passenger manifesto of the doomed Titanic for the passenger whose boarding pass I was given as my ticket into the exhibition. It put the Titanic into a new perspective though, for many of the passengers weren't supposed to travel on the Titanic but were transferred to the magnificent (at that time) ship due to a coal strike which shut down operations of many other ferries and ships during that period. 18 year old wife of wealthy business owner Astor survived the disaster while Mrs Hudson Allison (25 years) perished. My mom proved to be a more than agreeable exhibition buddy which was a pleasant surprise. Not that I expected her to be the exhibition companion from hell (read: complains incessantly, makes stupid comments, refuses to read, repeatedly suggests toilet breaks, gets impatient or feels tired after just one hour), but I did expect her to get tired, which she didn't. Better yet, she was fascinated by Warhol especially his take on The Last Supper. Will wonders never cease.



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