Warhol Live

Warhol Live at the deYoung February 14-May 17, 2009

Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches. —Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol expanded what it means to be an artist and a celebrity. Fame has become more famous in the post Andy Warhol world. Since his death in 1987, we have witnessed the meteoric proliferation of celebrity culture, reality television and social internet sites. It’s too bad Andy couldn’t have hung around long enough to get a Facebook account; he would have loved the detached, impersonal inventions that now double for human interaction in the 21st century.

The upcoming deYoung exhibit will be a comprehensive exploration of Warhol’s work as it relates to music and performance. Film and music were a main interest–sometimes simultaneously as in the case of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a performance which featured Andy’s films projected on the futuristic and sometimes atonal rock group The Velvet Underground. In the deYoung exhibit, album covers, images of pop icons such as Deborah Harry of Blondie, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley will combine with recreations of the environments of Studio 54 and Warhol’s Silver Factory to reconstruct the world of Warhol.

Even as a child, Warhol was preoccupied with popular Andy spent much of his childhood listening to music, collecting pictures of movie stars and drawing pictures. After studying art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Warhol started a career in magazine illustration and advertising.

In the late fifties, Warhol’s focus shifted to fine art. He brought the everyday imagery from advertising to the world of painting, which at the time was dominated by Abstract Expressionism’s serious non-representational explorations of interior worlds. The Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles gave Warhol his first one –man gallery show in 1962. Warhol’s Campbell Soup Can paintings ignited the sixties pop art movement in America. Gone were the ponderous paint splashes of Abstract Expressionism, replaced instead by the world of the mundane, repetitious, ordinary and remote presented with Warhol’s own wry sense of humor.

By the seventies, Warhol was a full-fledged media celebrity, having founded Interview magazine in 1969 and producing several films including Chelsea Girls. Warhol’s entrepreneurial instincts went into overdrive as he began producing numerous portraits of entertainers including Liza Minnelli, Mick Jagger, and Brigitte Bardot. While being criticized as a mere “business artist”, Warhol spent the greater part of the seventies and eighties bringing in huge sums for his paintings. At the same time, he created critical affiliations with up-and-coming young artists such as Francesco Clemente and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Very few artists occupy a position in both popular culture and the avant garde. Andy Warhol effortlessly moved between these worlds in his silver wig, shyly answering questions with an unassuming “ah, yes” or “ah, no” while assimilating and utilizing all the talent and energy he encountered into his own particular brand of art. This wide-ranging exhibit at the deYoung presents a visual vocabulary that’s very recognizable: repeated motifs of movie icons reminiscent of quick film edits; bright, saturated hues that bring to mind billboard advertisements and music videos. Has the Warhol brand become a ubiquitous part of our everyday society? Ah, yes.

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