"So what's it gonna take? Silver shadow believer..." -Shiny Toy Guns

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Warhol in a Word: There isn’t One

Going to see the Andy Warhol exhibit at the de Young Museum was what my spirit needed more than anything. To be surrounded by genius is an occurrence that even the weakest of heart can take something away from. Absolute brilliance is inspiring. I went knowing I’d enjoy it as my best friend, Noelle had arranged to take me for my birthday. But what I left with was something I had no idea I could acquire in one afternoon, the gift of fresh new ambition.

I won’t lie I am huge fan of Andy Warhol’s work. I like art to be bright, definitive, and colorful. I like it to evoke a feeling of freshness and for brilliant color to wake something up deep inside. Primary colors are pleasing to me and because of this pop art and graffiti are high on the list of favorite styles. Andy Warhol’s work is also a huge gift because it characterizes a generation that I grew up in: the fabulous 80’s.

The exhibit blew me away. I knew he was fantastic painter and silkscreen artist and that he helped to lead the pop art movement. But, I didn’t know was that he was also an illustrator, filmmaker, record producer, director, author, editor, photographer, and magazine creator. Literally, he touched on every form of media imaginable in his time. Warhol’s greatest gift to us was his strong association to American society and everything that it encompasses. Everything he created was iconic of pop culture.

So much of the exhibit I want to write about, but I will leave some surprises for those who will go see it after reading this. Two early works I stared at for awhile and had never seen before were spray paint and stencil pieces – Two Horns and Violin & Bow, both created in the 1950’s. They may have been the oldest pieces I have ever seen done by use of a spray can, so simple – just black paint and yet so impactful.

His silkscreen work was spectacular to see in person. Having worked in silkscreen a few years myself, I felt a deep rooted connection to these pieces beyond just their cultural relation. This Side Up - 1962, was a personal favorite. It just says, “This side up” over and over again. It’s all done in one color: Red. One of his quotes painted on the wall in this section of the exhibit simply said, “I like boring things. I like things to be the same over and over again.” Many of his pieces are simply amazing because of their repetition. The creation of one original work is astonishing but to recreate the same, over and over again is a different kind of amazing. It shows true dedication and the goal for perfection. Also shown were his Brillo Boxes, from 1964 and 1969. Twenty Brillo Boxes – all identical; he once said, "I'm painting this way because I want to be a machine." So many of his subjects were images from advertising or mass media and in so many ways he embraced our culture. Yet in so many others, he forced us to look at the commercialistic and impersonal society that we had become.

Many of his album covers, posters, bits of films, and photography were also key elements of the exhibit. Rolling Stones, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” played as you entered a Studio 54 inspired room, with a disco ball and art and film projected on the walls. My favorite was of course the, Night Clubbing Section, where his brightly painted portraits of Capote, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Prince and so many other celebrities all hung in unison. But it was his copies of Interview Magazine (1970-86) that were the most compelling for me. He founded the gossip magazine and used it to promote celebrities, friends, companies, and products that he endorsed. Sounds so much like this Azy Does It girl I know. There’s a little Warhol in all of us, I suppose. The exhibit will be up at the de Young Museum, in San Francisco until May 17. Do yourself a favor and go.

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