How to hang a Warhol

Warhol Live, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville TN.

24th June – 11th September 2011

Fascination with Andy Warhol still reigns, even today; a tribute in itself to the manufactured, consumerist mindset that characterised his works of art.

In Warhol, there is something for everyone. The bright, contrasting colors of the silk-screen prints of Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson have the propensity to appeal to a wider public, whilst his self-portraits and Red Book polaroids have become a glimpse into the psyche of the artist, who would go on to change the cultural atmosphere of 1960s and beyond.

More importantly, the art and personality of Warhol slotted in amongst the counterculture driving American society during the 1960s and 1970s, into a realm unforeseen by previous artists.  In his own words, “Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. Once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again.”

The Warhol Live exhibit at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts sought to expand the influence usually associated with Warhol, by incorporating the integral role of music and dance in his work.  The exhibit moves chronologically, beginning with Warhol’s obsession with Hollywood as a young child, during which his infatuation with musical theatre was matched only by the reverence he had for the stars in them – in particular, Judy Garland and Shirley Temple. The centrality of Hollywood began here and can be seen in Warhol’s early work such as Triple Elvis, in which the celebrity of Elvis is unashamedly portrayed in repetition, highlighting the growth of Hollywood stardom.  

Warhol’s transition into the Silver Factory years (1964-1968) was marked by a collection of Warhol’s The Velvet Underground & Nico album covers, along with The Exploding Plastic Inevitable posters, music and lights to enhance the visitors’ idea of what this psychedelic light show must have been like in 1970s New York.

The exhibit moves through his relationship with Mick Jagger, for whom he designed two of the most famous Rolling Stones’ album covers, Sticky Fingers and Love You Live. Warhol’s fascination with Jagger’s sexual ambiguity is shown through his many portraits of the rock and roll star, whose slender hips and arms became true objects of sexual desire and further influenced Warhol’s portraits of transvestites in Ladies and Gentlemen.

Culminating in an examination of Warhol’s later celebrity portraits of those he met at parties in New York City to the blaring sound of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, the exhibit comes to a close in such a way that visitors are able to see how Warhol absorbed yet also contributed to his environment.

By looking at Warhol through music, dance and film, we are able to catch a glimpse of an artist who continues to capture the interest and admiration of many today. As he so famously said, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

To read more about the Frist Center, visit their website.

Photo courtesy of  Lick My Tigerlily.