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Warhol's films play a starring role in the Whitney's retrospective
Andy Warhol (1928–1987), ST309 Edie Sedgwick, 1965. 16mm, b&w, silent; 4.5 min. @ 16 fps, 4 min. @ 18 fps. Pictured: Edie Sedgwick. © 2018 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved.

NEW YORK, NY.- From 1963 through 1968, Andy Warhol shot hundreds of movies—short and long, silent and sound, scripted and improvised. A selection of these now classic films are being screened throughout Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again, on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again—the first Warhol retrospective organized in the U.S. since 1989, and the largest in terms of its scope of ideas and range of works—reconsiders the films of Warhol together with the entire range of his work in other media. With more than 350 works of art, many assembled together for the first time, this landmark exhibition, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, unites all aspects and periods of Warhol’s forty-year career. Curated by Warhol authority Donna De Salvo, Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator, with Christie Mitchell, curatorial assistant, and Mark Loiacono, curatorial research associate, the survey opened at the Whitney in November, where it will run through March 31, 2019, before traveling to two other major American art museums, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

De Salvo commented: “Warhol pushed to its absolute limit every medium in which he engaged, and his experiments with film were no exception. In fact, in many ways, it was in film that Warhol was at his most avant-garde. Whereas his radical adaptation of an industrial silkscreen printing process to paintings of daily news disasters and celebrity faces was the vehicle for Warhol's initial popular success, his filmmaking responded more directly to the eccentricities of the artists and 'superstars’ with whom he surrounded himself in the Factory, and appealed to the underground circles in which he moved. Warhol was an avid cinephile and attuned to the explorations of the emerging New York school of filmmakers of the early 60's.”

Claire K. Henry, the Whitney's assistant curator of the Andy Warhol Film Project, has selected the films being screened. “To ensure that Warhol’s groundbreaking and now-iconic films are considered within the context of his work in other media,” noted Henry, “we will be presenting a series of screenings of Warhol’s films throughout the course of the exhibition, both in the galleries and in the theater. Our presentation of Warhol’s films will show the complexity of his thinking and highlight how certain singular obsessions follow through various media, finally to be worked out on film.”

By as early as 1963, Warhol was widely considered one of the leading figures in the New York art world, but as the decade progressed, he would come to be equally well known as an avant-garde filmmaker. Initially, filmmaking served as a means to visually capture portraits of friends, intimate encounters, and scenes from his daily life. Within a short span, however, Warhol’s film production became more complex, incorporating scripts, location shooting, and a rotating cast of underground actors and Factory “superstars” such as Mario Montez, Taylor Mead, Paul America, and Edie Sedgwick. Warhol experimented continually with the form itself, exploring elements such as duration, projection speed, sound, spontaneous panning and zooming, in-camera editing, combining film and video, and projecting multiple reels at once, in dual screen.

Films are being screened in the Museum’s theater as well as in a black box gallery on Floor Five. In the black box gallery they are being shown on a continuous loop, in their original 16mm format, in dialogue with Warhol’s related paintings. The films shown in this way are prominently positioned within the exhibition to underscore the centrality of film and the cinematic in Warhol’s work as a whole, and to allow repeat dips into the space as visitors move through the exhibition. On view are a combination of Warhol’s iconic screen tests of Ethel Scull, Edie Sedgwick, Ann Buchanan, Jack Smith, Rufus Collins, and Billy Name (three of men and three of women)—the sitters chosen to reflect people and themes exemplified in the larger exhibition—and home movie-style shorts from Warhol’s early filmic output. For example, the screen test of Ethel Scull mirrors her appearance in the multi-panel silkscreen Ethel Scull 36 Times (1963) and underscores the importance to Warhol of his art patrons and collectors. Among the films on view are a number of rarities that are also being shown in a program in the theater, including Jill and Freddy Dancing, Me and Taylor, and John Washing (all from 1963). Another key inclusion is Elvis at Ferus (1963), a rarely screened film document of Warhol’s important show of his Elvis and Liz canvases at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles; some of the works seen on screen have been installed in a nearby gallery.

In the Museum’s Susan and John Hess Family Theater, on Floor Three, Warhol’s films are being presented in programs organized by theme and in their original 16mm format. These thematic programs map to the concerns of the exhibition and include topics such as: Dance; Politics/The Political; Commercial/Commodity; Minimalism and Seriality; Queer Performativity; Hollywood Stars/Hollywood Types; Interior vs. Exterior/Public vs. Private; and Portraiture. Two films are being shown in double-screen in the theater: Outer and Inner Space (1965), and Lupe (1965), both featuring Warhol’s most iconic superstar, Edie Sedgwick. As these films are normally screened in single screen due to projection limitations in most theaters, this is a rare opportunity to view them in the way Warhol intended and for which he became renowned.

The series begins with gems from the first few months of Warhol’s filmmaking, which nevertheless show an artist already astonishingly adept at handling the camera. These films feature subjects and camera work not commonly associated with Warhol’s filmmaking. They are intimate, amusing and lyrical, and in some instances feature outdoor shots as well as much camera movement and in-camera editing. In particular, Me and Taylor has only been screened in New York once publicly (BAM November 2014). It depicts Warhol larking about with poet and underground film star Taylor Mead in Warhol’s Lexington Avenue townhouse and is a charming document of a friendship.

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