Andy Warhol art review

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol

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As I write this review of the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern, 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. I have found time to sit at home during a brief pause to contemplate Andy Warhol’s graphic punch.

 

As Abstract Expressionism was riding a wave in New York, it is immensely impressive to think that Andy Warhol, an artist born in the humble beginning of Pittsburgh in 1928, from parents from present-day Slovakia, saw things differently. Since moving to Manhattan in 1949 aged 21, Andy Warhol had already established himself as successful commercial Illustrator. 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 – 6 September 2020) – Tate Modern

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I expected to experience an in-depth visual diary about Andy Warhol as he adapted from an illustrator to a fine artist. Andy boldly went where no artist had gone before, bringing surface culture to Fine art. Instead, I visited an exhibition depicting how lifestyle informed a shy gay man’s focus on his desires and fears. However, unfortunately, this was not the show I was hoping to see.

 

The exhibition starts with a document from 1921 showing the arrival of the Warhola family in America.  Warhola was Andy’s original family name. Followed with a series of his early line drawings. In the handful of drawings, it is clear to see his embedded personal infliction. How Warhol had a pictorial power with the pencil in hand, showed in his tentative sketches. 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

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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 reflection as I watched a small part of the five-hour film that Andy had created. Marcel Proust tells us that  “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”   When this captivating film was first shown, it was said the first time film had something comparable to say about painting.

 

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 tenant for holding a mirror up to the world.  However, I found the jump very clunky.

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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Jumping from his distinctive illustrative pencil marks to the knock out Andy Warhol screen prints, I felt uneasy about the hang of the show. I wanted to see the stepping stones Andy Warhol took as he developed. From his fascination during his poor Catholic upbringing to the social upheaval of the 1960s. How his relationship with fame, fashion and celebrity developed.  From his marketable skills where his personality qualities and traits came out, but lacked ‘Art’, to a critiquing style of fanciful aesthetics challenging the view of life as he saw it. To understand where his seductive visual power came from.

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. However, I wanted a chance to not only reflect on these great works but to learn about how they came about.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, Andy Warhol

Installation views (c) Tate photography, Andrew Dunkley

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The public is so used to seeing these famous Warhol artworks. I wanted to look and learn. How a screen-printed portrait, a simple picture with simmering colour, containing no real fame or glamour, and understand how they end up similar to a religious artwork. Warhol had a personal vision to use the extraordinary phenomenon of the power of Catholic transubstantiation. Where religion travels to the object; turning an ordinary object into religious iconography. Warhol uses the same theory, encouraging the cool to travel from Elvis and Marilyn to the print.

 

The concept still amazes me, how our capacity to transfer feelings and emotions into an image had amplified consumerism.  I am also amazed at how little information there is in these often over inked screen prints. In one quick slip, squeegee by the hand, Warhol turned an empty decorative image into art. There is so much space left in the picture for us to fill in. Warhol gives us just enough information, so 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.

 

With duplication, he 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

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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, he was consumerism. He used its blankness to say something profound about us, that still rings true today. In this world we have created, it is like it is our own punishment. We are driven by forces that Warhol was able to use to transfer cool to himself.

 

In the next few room and there were many stimulating rooms to follow. They highlighted how Andy change the idea of the ‘artist’.  One minute he making art in his silver factory, the next with television adverts, he refined what an artist can be and re-imaging what art could be. 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

How Andy Warhol used Art to become one of the most impactful artists of the 20th century

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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 said a lot about this show focuses on the evolution of Andy identity. In the last room, I appreciated seeing one of Andy’s last works, Leonardo’s Da Vinci Last Supper. He captured a social scene, the processes of life and death that Andy was so fond of.

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. Currently in the pandemic, if we can find it on the internet we still can, 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.

 

As an artist, I felt this show should have made a good story for a book.  Possibly, ‘Andy Warhol and his identity politics’. The show I felt was missing an opportunity.

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.

How Andy Warhol used Art to become one of the most impactful artists of the 20th century

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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, it felt like a shy and queer man’s diary about his anxieties. 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 think you can’t have a Warhol show without highlighting how Warhol figured out why illustration and art are different. Not only showing fame but how he put it at the heart of his paintings—leading to his hefty contribution to many fields in the visual arts. I wanted to learn how Andy Warhol used Art to become one of the most impactful artists of the 20th century.

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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There is a horrible consequence at the moment during the Covid-19 outbreak. The fear of death and not being able to see family and friends is in the minds of many of us. But personal I enjoying a reprieve from the influence of what Andy Warhol helped to encourage. A break from our constant focus on the rat race shows us what we have been missing out on. People are working together and helping one another by keeping their distance to stop the virus spreading. There are lots of people working together rather than competing against each other for a crumb. As the shops are closed, we are learning to appreciate the small things in life before consumerism.

 

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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