Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Regarding “Regarding Warhol”

By Charles Kessler

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1967, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 72 x 72 inches each, (Detroit Institute of Arts). Is Warhol being contemplative, or is he giving us the finger?
Some thoughts on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Years, Fifty Artists (until December 31st):

  • Compared to Warhol's work in this exhibition, almost all the work looked minor to me. Jeff Koons held up better than most, but Richard Prince seemed especially weak. I’d like to see how Warhol would do in a show that included major work by Pollock, Dekooning, David Smith, Johns and some other heavy hitters of the last half of the twentieth century. I think he might hold his own, but it would be nice to be able to see. 
  • The 1962 Big Campbell’s Soup Can is still exciting. I never noticed the very faint hand-drawn pencil line in the white space just above the red at the top of the label. Such designer drawing!

Andy Warhol, Big Campbell's Soup Can, 19¢, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 72 x 54 ½ inches (The Menil Collection).

Just because people made portraits during this period doesn’t mean they were influenced by Warhol.
Alex Katz, Lita, 1964, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 1/8 inches (The Museum of Modern Art).
  • Some surprises in the show — for me at least:

Vija Celmins, Time Magazine Cover, 1965, oil on canvas, 56 x 40.6 cm © the artist. 
Hans Haacke, Helmsboro Country, 1990, mixed media.
  • Warhol never expected anyone to watch his eight-hour movie Empire, 1964, for its full length. His original intent was to project it on a wall like a painting, and he was surprised when there was a request to show it in a movie theater. Although he had no objection to others sitting and watching the full film, Warhol himself was never this foolish.
  • Nico's "screen test" is not a good example of a Warhol “screen test” because she was used to being photographed (she was a model) and, as a result, she doesn’t display the self-consciousness that I love so much in his screen tests. (The same is true with Dennis Hopper’s screen test.)  Nico did look gorgeous, though.
  • I don’t see how Basquiat fits in this show even if he did collaborate with Warhol on some paintings. In fact it’s possible Warhol wanted to collaborate with Basquiat because they were so different.

Some thoughts on the Metropolitan Museum's panel discussion about the influence of Andy Warhol:
The  Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum was relatively empty for the panel discussion last Sunday. Did people know something I didn't? 

The panel seemed promising. It included Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, considered by many to be the best up-and-coming curator in the world right now; Arthur C. Danto, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Columbia University; and Louis Menand, Professor of English at Harvard University and on the staff of the New Yorker. Mark Rosenthal, independent curator and co-curator of the exhibition, was the moderator. But it was disappointing. Arthur Danto didn't show, and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev just rambled on, paid no attention to the topic, and made no sense. She said the most influential artist of the twentieth century (not the last half — the entire twentieth century!) wasn't Picasso, or Duchamp, or Warhol. The most influential artist according to her was — wait for it — Joseph Beuys!!!. Matisse didn't even deserve a mention.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe's Lips, 1962, synthetic polymer, silkscreen and graphite on canvas, 165 1/2 x 163 inches (Hirshhorn).
My time wasn't completely wasted though. Mark Rosenthal made a couple of interesting points. He thought Warhol was making ironic reference to Dekooning with his monumental painting, Marilyn Monroe's Lips, 1962; and he said Warhol's exhibitions were always installations.

And I got to walk out of the Met with Marla Prather, the co-curator of the exhibition. We talked about the trouble they had exhibiting Warhol's "Silver Clouds". The "Clouds" had to be filled with just the right amount of helium so they would float around and not all gather in a corner of the ceiling or sink to the floor. That was also the reason for the fans, which I didn't remember seeing at one of the original exhibitions in Los Angeles. (Where, BTW, one of the "Clouds" escaped the gallery and flew into the Los Angeles smog.)

Andy Warhol, Silver Clouds, first shown in 1966 at the Castelli Gallery in New York.


Kyle Gallup said...

Charles, why did Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev consider Joseph Beuys the most influential artist? Did she explain? I'd be interested to know what she was thinking. The Empire film is so object-like. Made me think of Dan Flavin.

Charles Kessler said...

She just stated it as a future certainty. I guess she's convinced the art scene is going in that direction. She struck me as an air head, frankly -- or stoned.

Kyle Gallup said...

Hhmmmm. Found on google that there's a painting titled "Stool in Profile" 1965 that G. Richter painted with a work of J. Beuys in mind--actually based on a work of art by Beuys. The two artists were in the same circle. It seems that Germans have the edge on art these days tho I don't think many American artists that I know would like to hear that or agree with that--I think we might be kind of isolated here in NY-- Beuys is probably thought about more in Europe. Just thinking....I'll just let that one go for now. :)