Andy Warhol art review

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol – Tate Modern exhibition review

As I write this review of the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern, in April 2020, the UK like most countries is in lockdown, and all the galleries are closed. The terrible numbers of deaths continue to rise in the Covid-19 outbreak and the world turns its attention to protect the elderly and vulnerable and finding a way forward.   I luckily managed to look round Andy Warhol’s exhibition before it closed and since I have found time to sit at home during a brief pause to contemplate Andy Warhol’s graphic punch and power.

 

Andy Warhol, an artist born in the humble beginning of Pittsburgh in 1928, from parents from present-day Slovakia. He moved to Manhattan in 1949 aged 21 and after a few years he had established himself as successful commercial Illustrator. In the late 1950s and early 1960s as Abstract Expressionism was riding a wave in New York, he started to see things differently. He saw a rebellious opportunity to use his artistic skills and talents to say something fundamentally different about the world and the way he saw it.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
Boy with Flowers 1955-7
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Andy Warhol (12 March – extended until the 15 November 2020) – Tate Modern

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Before arriving at the exhibition, I hoped to experience an in-depth visual diary about Andy Warhol during this time as he became one of the most impactful artist of the 20th century.  Andy boldly went where no artist had gone before, bringing surface culture to fine art. Instead, I visited an exhibition focused on how lifestyle informed a shy gay man’s focus on his desires and fears.

 

The exhibition starts with a document from 1921 showing the arrival of the Warhola family in America.  Warhola was Andy’s original family name. In the following series of early drawings, it is clear to see his embedded personal infliction and early signs pictorial power with his pencil in hand. The intrinsic beauty in his lines evokes the emotions of men he knew or lusted after. They bring awareness to the strong theme throughout this show of Warhol’s interest in same-sex desire and queer identity.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol art

Installation views (c) Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Andy Warhol – Tate Modern exhibition review

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The next room l walked into was showing a film of the poet John Giorno sleeping, who was briefly Warhol’s lover. This room was certainty a time for contemplation as I watched a small part of the five-hour film that Andy had created.  It is a piece of art that really speaks to about the beauty and fragility of life, as stand there looking, it seeps into your soul.  It is like a window into transcendence.  When this captivating film was first shown, it was said the first time film had something comparable to say about painting.  It reminds me of a quote by Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”   

 

As I continued to walk around the exhibition as I was confronted with zesty, scorching colour reflecting the mad world of consumption we had created for ourselves. Suddenly we are with Andy Warhol, a pop artist, with famous works such as Marilyn Diptych 1962, Green Coca-Cola 1962 and Brillo box 1964. In this mad world driven by consumption and progress, Andy Warhol had developed a talent for holding a mirror up to the world.  However, I found the jump into this room very clunky as I wanted to know more about this part of his journey.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol

Installation views (c) Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Art exhibitions London – Andy Warhol review

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How did Andy get from his distinctive illustrative pencil marks and the social upheaval of the 1960s to the knock out Andy Warhol screen prints? I wanted to see the stepping stones from his poor Catholic upbringing to his relationship with fame, fashion and celebrity.  Andy’s early illustrations clearly had marketable skills where his personality qualities and traits came out, but the utility of his image lacked the quality of art for its own sake.  Nevertheless, I could see there was a seductive power that came from Andy’s early drawings that found their way into his new fanciful aesthetics, leading to his undeniable effect on art, life and culture.

We are encouraged to believe that with hard work, anyone can be successful, and we are free to have anything we want. The popular belief of the American dream still lives on. Andy indeed saw things, the imagery of the age, as an opportunity for his own fame and success, just like the images of Marilyn’s and Elvis, the Brillo boxes.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol

Installation views (c) Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Andy Warhol – Tate Modern exhibition review

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As I stood there looking at these screen-printed portraits, I am amazed at how little information there is in these often over inked screen prints. There is so much space left in the picture for us to fill in. In one quick slip of squeegee by the hand, Warhol turned an empty image into art. A simple picture with simmering colour, containing no real fame or glamour, but transferred feelings and emotions into an image.  We know who these famous characters are, and the viewer does the rest. The viewer makes the connection, transferring the ‘cool’ to the art object.  It is clear those days as a young catholic in church Andy learnt how in religious art, religion travels to the object.  Turning an ordinary object into religious iconography.  Leading to Andy’s remarkable personal vision to use the extraordinary phenomenon of the power of Catholic transubstantiation and use the same technique, encouraging the cool to travel from Elvis and Marilyn to the print.

 

With duplication of the image, Andy holds the viewer’s attention, and it’s game over, the new connection becomes powerful. The repetition of seeing the image, again and again, creates a new truth. Now all you see is cool, fame and glamour.  Samual Beckett explained it well when talking about Proust, and it can be further transferred to Warhol, “Art is the translation of an inner text into a form that anyone can read.”

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
Green Coca-Cola Bottles 1962
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Friends of the Whitney
Museum of American Art 68.25.
© 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Art exhibitions London – Andy Warhol review

Adrian Ghenie: The fuel of failure

Andy is known for following and swallowing the pursuit of surface culture, and he accepted it. He ate the whole pill for his art. So entirely that his art reflected our world back to us. By the end of his career, it was so magnified, he was consumerism. He used its blankness to say something profound about us and our lives, that still rings true today. In this world we have created, we are driven by forces of consumerism, echoing blankness of our lives back on ourselves, like it is our own chastisement.

 

In the next few rooms, and there were many stimulating aspects to follow. Starting by highlighting how Andy changed the idea of the ‘artist’.  One minute, Andy and his crew are making art in his Silver Factory, the next with television adverts, he refined what an artist can be and re-imaging what art could do. Contributing way beyond just the visual image to the visual arts as a whole. From the social scene at the Silver Factory into film and then back into advertising.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol art

Installation views (c) Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Andy Warhol – Tate Modern exhibition review

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When Valerie Solanas hopped in a lift with Andy and shot him in the chest and abdomen, understandably this changed his physical and mental health. The open-door policy at the Silver factory changed. Instead, Andy focused on making wealthy portrait commissions, turning the social space into an art business.

I enjoyed seeing the Black and Latino drag queens and trans women, in the ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ series. I thought their scorching colours brought out the personality of the sitters. However, I felt that the inclusion of Andy’s wigs in the show said a lot about this show focuses on the evolution of Andy identity.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol art

Installation views (c) Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Art exhibitions London – Andy Warhol review

Andy Warhol exhibition – Tate website page

This exhibition draws attention to the man Andy Warhol was and in turn, draws attention to what we have become.  Mini Andy’s—obsessed with celebrity and death. We have become used to being able to have anything we want, and so can everyone else. As Andy told us, “If the president of America can drink a Coke-a-Cola you can too.”  His work still has an enduring critique about modern-day society.

 

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol art

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
Self Portrait 1986
Tate
© 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London.

Andy Warhol – Tate Modern exhibition review

What I see in Tal R’s paintings

At the end of the exhibition, I partly felt this show should of instead made a good story for a book.  Possibly, ‘Andy Warhol and his identity politics’ rather than an exhibition.  Of course, Andy’s anxieties and longings, are part of his art, the heart of his art runs deep. Nevertheless, as a painter, I wanted to know about how his work holds their lyrical charm and sharp pictorial blow. To understand the nuts and bolts of the image, the critical commentary and to see how he bought it all together.

 

In my whistle-stop tour of this show, before lockdown, it felt like a shy and queer man’s diary about his anxieties and how they came out in his work. Although I found many parts of this show pleasurable and stimulating, mainly how he changed the concept of being an artist and how his gay personality came out in his work, which added to my appreciation of his work; I felt there were of stories I wanted to know more about.  It felt like Andy’s life derailed after the nut and bolts of life where taken in the lift car, sending him from critique coolness to confronting the fear of death and fragility of life.  Adding another legacy to his work ending with Andy’s ‘Sixty Last Suppers’ (1986). Not only showing the depth to his abilities as an artist but highlighting how he put a mirror of our lives at the heart of his paintings—leading to his hefty contribution to many fields in the visual arts.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol art

Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
Sixty Last Suppers 1986
Nicola Erni Collection
© 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by DACS, London.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes – Art exhibitions London – Andy Warhol review

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Do you find it hard to get to the bottom of what an artist’s work is about?  I use to feel the same.  I use to look at art, feel curious but often duped as I didn’t understand what it was all about.  However, I had a curiosity to draw and paint and study art to get to the bottom of what I felt I didn’t apprehend. If you are curious to learn about the artist’s important role of meaning-making, I would love you to join me on my artist’s journey.  Join me each week on my journey by subscribing to my email newsletter. 

 

2 thoughts on “Andy Warhol art review”

  1. Hi Stuart, I really enjoyed your review of this show and wondered whether you’d seen the film, ” Factory Girl”
    It gives a disturbing insight into the opportunist personality that was Warhol through the way he treated Evie Sedgwick.
    He seemed to me to to relate to people in much the same way as the disposable, mass produced objects he depicted.

    1. Hi Sue, I watched the trailer, it does look interesting. I haven’t seen it before. Thanks for making me aware of it, hopefully, I will get around to watching it. Stuart.

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