September 2008 Issue
Wild About Warhol
A multifaceted arts center is the ideal spot for showcasing the iconic artist's many mediums.
What makes an art exhibit exceptional?
Some argue that it comes down to the artists’ work: That it doesn’t matter if the pieces are displayed on gallery walls or garbage-can lids –– a true artist’s talents outshine their surroundings.
Still, others argue that it’s all about the space in which those works are shown: That just as the old adage regarding real estate says, the most important factors for a successful art exhibit are location, location, location.
Fortunately, art lovers are able to have it both ways with “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” a multimedia exhibit of Andy Warhol’s work, on view at Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Sept. 13 through Feb. 8. The show, which offers a unique look at more than 700 pieces from one of the 20th-century’s most famous artists came down to an ideal pairing of work and space.
The Wexner Center, located on The Ohio State University campus –– and, arguably, the hub of the Columbus art scene –– is a true interdisciplinary facility. The museum and arts-focused research laboratory features everything from performance-art presentations and nationally known musical acts, to an impressive film series program.
Pop-art icon Warhol’s interests were just as diverse. When he wasn’t hobnobbing with celebrities such as Truman Capote and Liza Minnelli, he produced countless photographs, films and paintings (including his most famous ones of Campbell’s soup cans); designed album covers for rock bands like The Velvet Underground; founded Interview magazine; and ultimately created his own studio, the Factory, that was a breeding ground for innovation and a hangout for his eclectic group of friends.
So, then, to bring the Wexner Center and Andy Warhol together –– his paintings, recordings and installations are spread out across the Wexner’s four galleries, taking advantage of the center’s ability to provide multiple experiences under one roof –– is essentially the perfect union.
“We feature visual arts and performing arts, as well as all kinds of hybrid art forms,” says Sherri Geldin, the director of the Wexner Center. “Certainly, Warhol’s practice was nothing if not multidisciplinary. It’s hard to think of an artistic medium that he didn’t participate in in a very active way.
“That in and of itself makes the Wexner Center highly appropriate to represent the kind of multifaceted aspect of Warhol’s work.”
So appropriate, in fact, that this will be the exhibit’s only U.S. show, placing Columbus on a prestigious list that includes only Stockholm, Amsterdam and London.
Warhol, famous for his paintings and prints that exemplified consumer culture and an obsession with celebrity, came to the height of his fame in the 1960s. It was a time when the classic, abstract expressionism of the 1950s was moving toward pop art, and artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns began to look at contemporary culture for inspiration.
It was also a moment when the connection between high art and low art was blurring, and (like many aspects of life in the 1960s) the conventional way of doing things was tossed aside. Consequently, experimentation was not only respected but expected, and Warhol became the ultimate experimenter.
“There’s no question that in the early 1960s, he was seen as a pioneer in terms of his treatment of certain subjects –– whether it was celebrity portraits or mass-produced consumer goods, or even just the kinds of drawings he did for commercial advertisements,” Geldin says.
However, it is his cinematic work, his love of dabbling in other art forms that is at the heart of this exhibit.
“He had a very individual and original approach that was in part inspired by, or at least infused with, his interest in film and video,” she says. “And that’s one of the aspects of this exhibition that makes it very different from other shows about Warhol that have been done over the years: [It] looks at the way that Warhol’s interest in film, in a sense, permeated the work that he did in painting and photography and printmaking.”
These influences include Warhol’s use of repetition and motion –– aspects of film that he then used in his other pieces, such as 1963’s “Double Elvis”.
Two sections of the show, “Filmscape” and “TV-Scape,” are dedicated to his cinematic work. The former, which fills two galleries, features 19 films on large, plasma screens; the latter displays 42 television episodes created by Warhol in the late ’70s and ’80s. The third section, titled “Cosmos,” features Warhol’s two-dimensional work and runs throughout all four galleries, acting as the thread that ties it all together.
“Of the 700 pieces in the show, each one has a very precise place selected for it in relation to the other works, and most importantly in relation to the films,” says Geldin.
Notable pieces at the exhibit include Warhol’s “100 Campbell’s Soup Cans”; the “Electric Chairs” series; album art including the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” cover; and his famous sculpture of Brillo boxes. In the “Filmscape” and “TV-Scape” segments, viewers are given a glimpse into the lives of the celebrities that Warhol was fascinated by, including ’60s socialite Edie Sedgwick, fashion designer Halston, and many more.
More than 50 years after he stormed onto the art scene, Andy Warhol’s artistry still inspires. Geldin still remembers the impressive turnout from when she visited the Amsterdam exhibit last winter. “It was just phenomenal to see not just the numbers of people that flocked to the exhibition, but the diversity of ages, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds,” she says.