It’s easy to take for granted the mesmerising works by influential pop-artist Andy Warhol. Usually his reputation exceeds him, words synonymous with brash, tacky, mainstream all ring bells. Yet, no-one would ever defy his absolute brilliance in a decade where everything was possible. Following a World War, the Fifties were full of hope, bright futures… and commercialism, which he sought out with every fibre of his body.
Being a commercial illustrator in New York meant he was in the perfect position to bring about a new generation of modern art… and boy oh boy did he do that. The Tate has brought together a key selection of works that show off his presence as an artist to stunning effect. Could there be a more profound (and colourful) moment in art history than pop art?
As you enter you are hit with his iconic imagery. Yes, there are a lot of Marilyn’s, Campbell soup posters and Brillo pad boxes. Alongside these is the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’, a separate 70’s room ‘in motion’. Featuring sounds from the Velvet Underground combined with classic Warhol moving imagery, it provides for a multi-layered ‘total art’ environment with music, dancing, images, light work and movies. I really did feel as though I had been transported back to the age where superstar, disco and crazy were the go-to words. Warhol was aiming for a blurring between onlooker and performance, once again knocking down walls between the art establishment and the individual… who can make art, who can become the art and those who can do anything!
His fascination with celebrity is what he is most synonymous with and there are lots of references within the show to satisfy you if this is your main interest including the striking Chairman Mao screenprints, Elvis Presley, ‘Dollar Sign’, The Beatles and ‘Electric Chair Portfolio’. What particularly intrigues me are the constant references to repetition. There’s never just one of his works. Never-ending amounts of Marilyn were produced. Likewise with his lesser known works ‘Blue Airmail Stamps’ and ‘Red Airmail Stamps’ 1962, considered too handmade by Warhol so much so that his need for a mechanical process became desperately apparent to him.
Intertwined throughout the exhibition are some of his works on film featuring Edie Sedgwick, one of Warhol’s most famous ‘Factory Girls’ and ‘Empire’ a slow motion reel of the Empire State Building amongst photographic imagery of himself and his infamous ‘Self Portrait’ 1986 wearing one of his notorious ‘fright wigs’.
This ties in nicely with the second part of the exhibition on ‘Gretchen Bender’. A fascinating insight into her work as a video artist who was most famous for her large scale video theatre installations. Getting a taste for her work in the form of music videos she edited, from New Order to REM and Megadeth they depict fast moving ‘cut’ imagery flashing from one image to another in time with the music. The Tate successfully reproduces this accelerated fast-flow of tv and violence of images through ‘Total Recall’ 1987 a massive 24-monitor multi-projection screen installation which shows
her aggressive style of editing and sound.
|Bender’s multi-media installation|
It’s easy to become swept away by the deeply hypnotic ideology behind Bender and Warhol’s artistic intent and never has it continued to be so apparent within the world which we live in. Their views haven’t died and will live long into our futures particularly as new platforms for disseminating art (and information) continue apace.
To 8th February
‘Transmitting Andy Warhol’
Tate Liverpool, Albert Dock
The Tate also presents ‘The Serving Library’ which includes a collection of artworks, artefacts, books and other materials. Asking questions about the changing role of libraries and concerned with generating and sharing knowledge around the tools by which information and ideas are communicated… not far removed from the themes of ‘Transmitting Andy Warhol’.