Works by Andy Warhol, arguably one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century, are on view at the Seattle Art Museum
. World renowned for his iconic large scale paintings and prints, such as his Campbells Soup Cans of 1962, and mass produced portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, Warhol also produced a large body of photographs and films that explore powerful themes and seem to offer personal glimpses into the minds of the artist and his sitters. love fear pleasure lust pain glamour deathAndy Warhol Media Works is a small yet powerful exhibition, bringing together more than 80 of these rarely exhibited works.
Dating from the 1960s through the 1980s a period in which Warhol had a tremendous impact on contemporary art and pop culture the Polaroids, photobooth strips, stitched photographs, and Screen Tests in the exhibition help us understand the artists manipulation of his own image as well as his fascination with all things ephemeral from beauty and youth, to pleasure and pain, to anonymity and identity.
The Photobooth Portrait
The exhibition begins with a group of Warhols photobooth strip portraits. These strips of images shot form an ordinary photobooth highlight the flux in personality of the artists subjects. Unlike a single-frame portrait, the photobooth strips capture change in movement and facial expressions throughout a series of connected images, revealing the sitters personality and creating a story of shifting moods or actions. For instance, in Edie Sedgwick (1965), the Factory superstar who Andy Warhol once said could be anything you wanted her to be strikes a series of coyly crafted poses that convey multiple moods, if not multiple identities. The photobooth strips on view in love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death include portraits of celebrities such as Ethel Scull and Gerard Malanga, as well as self-portraits by Warhol in which the artist explores his own personality shifts through a storyline of snapshots.
The Screen Test Portrait
Throughout the 1960s Warhol filmed hundreds of Screen Tests silent, filmed portraits of Factory regulars and visitors including Edie Sedgwick, Ann Buchanan, Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper, and many more. Over the course of the approximately 4 1/2-minute films, these contemplative portraits expose the physical, emotional and psychological attributes of each sitter with a unique intensity. love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death includes more than 20 Screen Tests projected in larger than life scale. These include portraits of Ann Buchannan, who becomes so emotionally invested in the project that she begins to cry, Lou Reed, who absentmindedly sips a coke, and others.
In a November 1962 ArtNEWS article Andy Warhol proclaimed I want to be a machine! The making of automatic images with a Polaroid camera was an ideal mode of expression for the artist, at once automating his production and feeding his salacious appetite for immediacy. In Warhols Polaroid portraits all glamour is lost, and we are left with what seems like the most direct representations of popular artists, writers, and other subjects. The small size of the Polaroid, lends an intimate feel to the works; at only 4 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches, viewers are forced to experience the photographs from a very close range. Subjects such as Robert Rauchenberg, Joseph Beuys and Truman Capote are brought completely into the foreground, filling the entire frame of the photograph, and addressing the viewer with an often unsettling intensity. love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death also includes several self portraits, in which Warhol uses the Polaroid format to play with his own identity, dressing up in elaborate makeup, wigs, and more.
Between 1976 and 1986 Warhol worked in conjunction with the seamstress Michelle Loud to create what would become one of his final bodies of work before his death in 1987. In his stitched portraits Warhol returned to the idea of serial repetition, connecting multiple, largely identical images in works that in many cases seem to be profound studies of the transience of life. For instance, Warhols stitched portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1985-1986) is comprised of six photos of Basquiat, identical except that each image in the series is successively darker. Together, they form a single, evocative statement about the brevity of life, and everything in it, as Basquiat fades into the background of the final image.