Andy Warhol

Warhol @ The Tate

A rare day to look around galleries in Liverpool took me to the Tate, Open Eye Gallery and The Bluecoat. Fitting three galleries in was always going to be dangerous, especially on my own, as there would be a danger of image fatigue setting in. There’s also the lack of people to bounce thoughts back from; see something, comment, response, new train of thought….

Warhol was first and walking through the door I was confronted with both the familiar and the unfamiliar. There was Monroe, there was soup and Brillo boxes, and there was some dance steps and other things.
Dance Diagram, 1962 on the floor as you walk in was something I hadn’t seen before, or at least not remembered seeing before. The transference from the (almost) everyday item to art is classic Warhol ideology, and whilst these dance steps maybe a thing of the past, here is a snippet of one preserved as art. Maybe the obscurity of this source material on the truly contemporary stage diminishes it somewhat, or maybe it’s just my view on things, but this wasn’t that interesting for me, thankfully there was more.

A lot could be said about the well known works, I’ve already mentioned the Campbell soup tins, of which there was a selection, the Brillo boxes and, of course, the iconic portrait series of Marilyn Monroe. A pleasure to see for real (although I’d already seen some a few years ago – MoMA I think) but a suppose a certain familiarity with them meant I felt an urge to look at some of the other things. Electric Chair was far more intriguing. It was new to me, and it made me think about my own work.

Andy Warhol. Electric Chair, 1971 [screen print on paper]

As might be expected, there was a series of these images too, the same but in different colours. The repetition of the images might be thought of as desensitising the viewer to the subject matter, much as the constant flood of media in general can do, and the colours, do they serve to mask the subject matter? (an instrument of death at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York State) Perhaps the purple version above is still quite dark, but the yellow? I’m undecided on this, but it did resonate with me in terms of some of my own work on the war films, the colours they have are, in some instances, quite ‘pleasing” which can work in contrast to the subject matter.

Other work triggered thoughts. A pair of images of snub-nosed revolvers (
Gun, 1981) also triggered (groan) thoughts of my own work, with the images overlapping / out of register being visually similar in some ways to the movement blur I’ve been capturing. Am I moving towards Pop Art with this current project? Maybe I am, I’ve bought a book about the subject from the gallery shop…

The next room was noisy, too many people, all chatting and I couldn’t hear the various videos and whatnot. Off to the other annex of the exhibition and an artist I hadn’t actually heard of but I did know some of her work; Gretchen Bender worked with video, some of which as I say, I knew (REM for a start). There wasn’t a lot here, but it was definitely worth the look, and in many respects brought me back to the video I watched on Sonic Outlaws

Gretchen Bender

After sitting and watching the multi screen presentation (above), I moved back in to Warhol, and his large video room and The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Now this I really liked – wrap around video, music from Velvet Underground and really quite immersive. The video from YouTube doesn’t come across as the same thing – the audio is shocking (it wasn’t at the Tate), an you really don’t get the same feeling of being in the middle. No-one was dancing at the Tate either.

This was worth the admission on its own.