“Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years” is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exhibition is divided into five categories that represent aspects of Warhol’s art: every day objects, portraiture, queer studies, seriality and appropriation, and ending with business collaboration and spectacle.
The juxtaposition between Warhol and his contemporaries is done in a way that depicts Warhol as the spark that ignited the flame that is Pop Art, or that he is the “old master” of this specific genre. We are shown works by Warhol that are engulfed by works of other artists such as Jeff Koons, Nan Goldin, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, and Damien Hirst. There are a total of 45 works by Warhol and 100 works by sixty other artists. “Regarding Warhol” successfully displayed how Warhol was the frontrunner of Pop Art and how after 25 years his style is still impacting contemporary artists.
The first section, “Daily News: From Banality to Disaster,” displays Warhol’s work in advertising, capturing the images from everyday life that flooded American culture during the 1960s. Highlights of this section include Warhol’s illustrated advertisement for “Dr. Scholl’s Corns” and his plastic surgery advertisement from the National Enquirer, “Before and After I.” Here we are shown the fundamental aspect of what Warhol is all about: hardedge, straightforward images that show no expression other than the subject choice. Juxtaposed to Warhol in this section, we find Diane Kruger’s covers for Esquire and Newsweek Magazines, “Cat Litter” (1989) by Robert Gober, and Damien Hirst’s medicine cabinet titled “Eight over Eight” (1997-98). Each of the contemporaries toy around with the idea of everyday objects seen in an artistic way and each celebrate or criticize the American’s obsession with consumerism.
The exhibition continues on and around a few corners the show opens up to one of Warhol’s most popular subjects: celebrity portraiture. His fascination with the idea of celebrity is said to have begun at a young age and continued into his adulthood (he became so obsessed he even stalked Truman Capote). Here we see how Warhol takes the concept of celebrity and turns it into a consumerist idea by constantly creating new works of new celebrities, over and over again, like a machine. The celebrity is now out of the tabloids and onto a canvas (or projected onto a screen as seen in his “Film Screen Test” of Lou Reed and Nico). We learn from this portion of the exhibit that it was Warhol who inspired artists including Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Richard Avedon and Chuck Close, to take the commercial American idols and make them into masterpieces. Important works in this section include Richard Avedon’s portrait of Truman Capote, Jeff Koons’ ceramic statue of Michael Jackson and his monkey friend, Bubbles, and Keith Haring’s portrait of Elvis Presley.
A small portion of the exhibit was devoted to “Queer Studies: Shifting Identities.” It wasn’t as though queer issues had not been artistically expressed before, they had, but when Andy Warhol began to create works dealing with gender and sexual identity, only then did it become a much more popular subject. Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin, and Catherine Opie are a few artists who followed suit and made sexuality and sub-culture the topics of their artwork. It was as though because Warhol did it, everyone else started doing it too.
When viewing the pieces in the section of the tour titled “Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality” we are faced with a question about death when viewing Warhol’s “Marilyn Monroe’s Lips.” The famous silkscreen shows Monroe’s lips zipping repetitively across the canvas (created shortly after her death). Monroe’s lips, her kisses, were a symbol of sex and yet when her lips are seen in multiple, the sexiness dies out. Warhol has drained the lips of any eroticism through his use of repetition, seriality. Monroe died and her sexuality died with her. Warhol addresses an idea: Can objects and the people we obsess over – this product or identity we want – can it be over-produced to the point where it loses value and overtime, turns to trash? Every thing comes to an end.
The exhibit ends with Andy Warhol’s works that were done under artistic partnerships, works for magazines and film, and design. They are purely works to be enjoyed, and are aesthetically pleasing. Examples include Warhol’s 1964 acrylic silkscreen works titled, “Flowers” which are placed opposite of Jeff Koon’s “Wall Relief with Bird,” in a room that was wallpapered with Takashi Murakami designs. I was surprised not to see another work by Jean-Michele Basquiat in this section, as the two collaborated together toward the end of Warhol’s life.
So why should you visit Regarding Warhol? In one visit you will see the crème de la crème of Warhol’s art, you’ll see most of the iconic works by today’s living artists. You will be able to see how one man was able to take every day, deadpan objects and make them sparkle and pop. This exhibition celebrates the newest “old-master” of our time, Andy Warhol, and his impact on art today.