Warhol Is Here’ – Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion – Saturday 24/9/11
You might be thinking, as I was, that almost everything that could be said about Andy Warhol, has been said, many times over, leaving us with little need to repeat still further. The fifteen minutes of fame he predicted would be everyone’s lot seems to have been multiplied many times for the saying’s originator.
From his beginnings as a graphic artist, window dresser and advertiser, to his creation of an alt-celebrity club for fellow artists, to his acceptance by the smart set and his tragically early demise, all have been noted, annotated and endlessly repeated, like so many of his silk screen paintings, that we are left wondering what else could possibly be left to discuss. A selective overview of Warhol’s popular works is one answer, and ‘Warhol Is Here’ on display free at Bexhill’s stunning architectural show space, the De La Warr Pavilion, is well worth the visit.
Taking place on three levels of the crotchet-shaped building, the main hall guides us through works by genre, starting with the earliest, where Warhol incorporated rubber-stamp images to create pictures, often getting friends to finish what he had begun. The floral and angelic themes made these composite pictures resemble Victorian ‘scraps’. His shoe and hand fetishes were apparent even then, with the familiar heel-to-toe silhouette of a ladies’ shoe and the caressing hand touching a kitten turning up like advertising images, something that would later earn him a living as an illustrator.
This comforting world of leisure and pleasure quickly gives way to more in/famous images as we see the news-reportage image of the Birmingham, Alabama race riots, a police alsatian biting the trouser of a fleeing man as police officers, billy-clubs at the ready, wait to pounce.
Aside, a stack of white boxes advertising pan-shining pads await unpacking, and ahead, the ‘Marilyn Monroe’ diptych, on loan from the Tate, hangs defiantly staring out at us. These repeated, slightly offset images (colour on the left, black & white on the right) have become even better known than the original photographic image they were based on, and still have the power to fascinate as they seem to suggest a side to the star her studio would never have promoted.
Separate, differently coloured images of Chairman Mao-Tse Tung have his genial grin as the focus, at odds with his administration’s brutal treatment of any degree of dissent from its people. Warhol’s indiscriminate fascination with celebrity, however garnered, is well represented by just these two, even though many more adorn the walls.
Warhol’s love of Americana is unavoidable and central to his work, both its positive, all-inclusive side (brand-name canned soup, a single can, rather than one repeated on an industrial scale) and its dark side (electric chair, the variously coloured images chilling in their intensity).
His more human side is apparent in the nudes, among them a beautiful Venus rising from her shell, slim bodied and demure, and the highly charged homoeroticism of the male nudes. Warhol’s self portraits in conventional clothes and a series of blond wigs raise questions which he usually answered, if at all, in dull monosyllables.
Warhol’s tendency to ‘direct ‘ paintings, at least as often as painting them himself, throws up the question of authenticity, probably none more so than the films his name was applied to. There is no doubt about the publicity this name generated for them though, and some beautifully preserved examples of the posters are here, largely in German language format. They are possibly the most telling of exhibits, as the films tend to follow popular themes of the 60’s & 70’s, Chelsea Girls (basically a portmanteau film) Blue Movie (anything but) and Blood for Dracula (horror, in 3-D, another gimmick) but with the art house twists that major studios were shy of. The posters advertising shows at the Fillmore Ballroom and the Scene offer a rare glimpse into the world of the much talked about but rarely seen Velvet Underground, Warhol protégés and Factory house band who would slowly acquire a cult following and later still, worldwide fame.
The smaller, first floor room is made suitably claustrophobic with ‘Cow’ wallpaper, paranoid maps of Cold War-era USSR and its reputed missile stations, huge dollar signs and double-take faces, a nightmare in silk screen, reflecting the darkest recesses of Warhol’s psyche.
Perhaps in tribute to the multi media shows the Velvet Underground played, the second floor has a round table of cassette tapes, loaded with interviews with various people who knew Warhol, among them Brigid Polk/Brigid Berlin, one of the Factory’s long-term habitués. Apart from winning this writer’s personal seal of approval for classic technology (you know, the sort that has four buttons which do what they say on them), they open a window on as many opinions as there are speakers, sometimes more than one.
This exhibition is free and those of you who are new to either Warhol or Bexhill’s magnificent De La Warr Pavilion have until 26th February 2012 to see it.
Andy Warhol, Mao (1972), from a portfolio of ten screenprints, private collection
Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych (1962), Tate © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2011
Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Fright Wig (1986) © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2009
All images kindly supplied by De La Warr Pavilion
Originally posted 2011-10-24 08:47:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter