Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures is an exhibition by MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York), in collaboration with Andy Warhol Museum, Pitsburg, organized by Moscow Museum of Modern Art
The exhibition originated at MoMa, New York in 2003 under the title Andy Warhol Screen Tests by Mary Lea Bandy, Chief Curator Emerita, , Department of Film and Media, The Museum of Modern Art. With the addition of Andy Warhols silent films, the show debuted as Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and over the past five years it has toured to Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo, Malba-Colección Costantini, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, and Miami Art Museum. In Moscow, the exhibition takes place at the State Museum of Modern Art of the Russian Academy of Arts. The former mansion, which was is now one of the leading exhibition venues in Moscow. After the presentation in Moscow, Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures will travel to Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague.
In 1963, after painting such American icons as the Campbell Soup can, the Coca-Cola bottle, and Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol purchased a 16mm camera and began an astonishing five-year period of filmmaking, directing more than one hundred short and feature-length films including a series of silent films in 1963-64: Haircut (No.1), Sleep, Empire, Eat, Kiss, Blow Job, Henry Geldzahler, and sound films such as Chelsea Girls (1966) and Lonesome Cowboys (1967). Concurrently, from 1964-66 Warhol experimented with the filmed portrait in a series of approximately five hundred black and white, silent movies he titled Screen Tests.
In 1968, an attempt was made on Warhols life. He quit directing and instead produced films by Paul Morrissey (Flesh, Heat, and Trash, among others). In the early 1970s, Warhol withdrew his films from distribution, and acquired a video portapak system with which he created Factory Diaries and other video and television work. Before his death in 1987, he determined that his films should be cared for by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 1997 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts completed the donation of the surviving four thousand reels of original footage and print materials. Generous support from the Foundation enabled the Museum to preserve and return to circulation films hidden away for two decades.
Among Warhols cinematic oeuvre, the black and white silent films are the most daring and experimental of his moving images in their selection of subject and theme, psychological acuity, rhythmic pacing, and sheer beauty of form photographed with stark light or deep shadow. Although these films were originally shot at the speed of sound film, or twenty-four frames per second, Warhol specified that prints be projected at a slower speed of sixteen frames per second, a rate used in the projection of silent films in the early period of cinema from the 1890s through the 1920s. For this exhibition, a selection of Warhols 16mm films made in 1963-6and later transferred to video at the speed of sixteen frames per secondare projected in a gallery setting. Thus it is again possible to see the works as Warhol intended them to be viewed and to appreciate the ways in which he challenged and provoked both sitter and viewer in his manipulation of moving images.
The Screen Tests comprise approximately five hundred individual films, shot at Warhols studio, The Factory, on E. 47th St. The sitters were models, performers, artists, writers and poets, dealers, friends, and others who wished to be famous. Warhols superstars were filmed several times over, particularly his most beautiful women, such as Baby Jane Holzer, Edie Sedgwick, and Ivy Nicholson. Subjects were usually asked to sit on a chair facing a stationary camera and remain still for the three or more minutes it took for a 100-foot roll of film to run through the camera. Deceptively simple yet sumptuous, the lighting varied from bright to dark, or light or shadow would be cast directly on the sitters face and often splendidly coiffed hair.
Like his other silent black and white films, the Screen Tests were originally filmed at twenty-four frames per second, yet projected at sixteen frames per second. The result is an unusual fluidity of pace, a rhythm gently at odds with the starkness of the lighting and the boldness of the close-ups of face and hair. As with any portrait, there is participation by the sitter, ingeniously or nervously, sadly or hilariously reacting to the challenge of the camera. Walter Burn seems sublime in his stillness, Dennis Hopper moves to his own music, Chip Monk and Cass Elliott know how to smile, Baby Jane Holzer chews gum or brushes her teeth with sexual immodesty, Beverly Grant imitates Theda Bara, James Rosenquist circles about on a moving stool. The beautiful women stare, tear up in the bright light, preen and pose; most wistful is Edie Sedgwick. Piero Heliczer reminds us of Rudolf Valentino with a warmer smile, and Salvador Dalí sees the world upside down.
The screen test traditionally serves as a filmed audition for an actor being considered for a motion picture role. The production studio and the director seek to find what the camera will reveal of the personality and appearance of the actor, of his or her abilities, or to offer a kind of blank slate, allowing audiences to project their own thoughts and feelings through the still gaze of a beautiful face on the silver screen. Warhol celebrated fashion as fashion celebrated beauty; he knew how to play with the superficial in virtually every form of printed and moving imagery, and how to stretch a medium in startlingly various ways. The held pose, its particular stillness, and slowed motion make the portraits impossible to categorize: are they films in slow motion, or photographs that slowly move?