Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Andy Warhols Work, the first exhibition to delve deeply into the roles music and dance played in the artists life and work, opens at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts
on June 24 in the Ingram Gallery and will remain on view through Sept. 11, 2011.
The exhibition, organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, brings together more than 220 works and objects, including paintings, silkscreen prints, photographs, works on paper, installations, films, videos and album covers, as well as objects and documents from Warhols personal archives. Warhols love of music and dance provides an essential narrative element, guiding visitors as they rediscover this seminal Pop artists work. Following Warhols career chronologically and thematically, the exhibition begins with the film music he adored and the stars he idolized in his youth and concludes with his images of celebrities enjoying the nightlife in such famous New York hotspots as Maxs Kansas City and Studio 54, the legendary nightclub that opened in 1977, where he was one of the famous regulars.
Warhols view of the world and the art he created left indelible marks on our culture, says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala. His genius was to challenge the art worlds sacred cowsoriginality, the painters touch, the belief in art as psychological revelationwhich he believed were irrelevant in postwar America, an era defined by materialism and the mass production of consumer goods, an obsession with celebrity and a burgeoning understanding of the impact of mass media. While his innovative responses to the culture are well-known, what is so fascinating is the illustrated sound-track that accompanies every dimension of Warhols work. He found inspiration in movie music, opera and ballet; the avant-garde compositions of John Cage and dances of Merce Cunningham; the proto-punk of the Velvet Underground, the rock of the Rolling Stones and the disco scene of the 1970s and 1980s. There is even a painting of country musics Dolly Parton in the exhibition. It seems so fitting that todays Music City, with its own plethora of genres animating the already vibrant music scene, should be a venue for Warhol Live!
The exhibition is organized around ten major sections: Hollywood; Classical Taste; Andys Jukebox; Warhol and the Avant-Garde; The Silver Factory, 19641968; Producer: Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground; Exploding Plastic Inevitable; Fame; Ladies and Gentlemen, Mick Jagger!; and Warhol Nightclubber. An early highlight is a selection of album covers Warhol designed between 1949, the year he arrived in New York, and his death in 1987. Warhol worked for the most significant record labels of the day, including Columbia, RCA, Blue Note, Prestige, Verve and EMI. Along with Tchaikovskys Swan Lake, on view are albums of the music of Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, the Velvet Underground, Blondie and the Rolling Stones, all on loan from Montreal collector Paul Marechal. Showing Warhols playfulness and interest in breaking down boundaries between art and life, some of the designs are interactive; his banana sticker on the 1967 Velvet Underground & Nico album includes the instruction to Peel slowly and see. Similarly, the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers zippered album implicitly invites viewers to unzip it. This became one of the most popular albums ever produced, earning Warhol the Art Directors Certificate of Merit and a Grammy nomination.
Throughout the exhibition are major paintings and prints of such icons as Elvis Presley, Liza Minelli, Mick Jagger and the artist himself, as well as works from the Campbells Soup Can and Disaster series. Also on view will be works that show Warhols embrace of other disciplines, including a room filled with buoyant silver Mylar balloons (through which visitors may walk), which composed the stage set he designed for choreographer Merce Cunninghams Rainforest. The exhibition section Warhol and the Avant-Garde includes a selection of minimalist films, including Sleep and Empire, which employ the repetitive principles of avant-garde music by Eric Satie, John Cage and Lamonte Young. Sections devoted to Warhols studio, known as the Silver Factory, and his work as the producer of the Velvet Underground, show the artist orchestrating both the assembly-line creation of his own art objects and the production of energy-laden performances. Perhaps the most notable example of the latter was the Velvet Undergrounds visual and auditory extravaganza, Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which was produced in New York and across the country. On view in this section will be a simulated interior of a downtown club, with the music of the Velvet Underground punctuated with a strobe, a flashing slide show and large projected videos.
Later projects such as album covers he designed for the Rolling Stones; the television shows Andy Warhols TV and Andy Warhols 15 Minutes and music videos produced for groups such as the Cars and Curiosity Killed the Cat, exemplify the artists desire to more fully integrate music, art and popular culture. Selected copies of Warhols magazine, Interviewthe precursor of todays People and Entertainment Weeklyon view in the Fame section underscore the artists obsession with the cult of celebrity, which carries over into the Warhol Nightclubber section that contains painted portraits of Grace Jones, Debbie Harry, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and many others, as well as the candid photographs of celebrities Warhol took in various entertainment venues.
Through art, music, dance and film, Warhol Live! offers an experience of total art, an ideal the artist adopted from one of his favorite art forms, the opera. Like the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the exhibition is a feast for the senses. It also provides a lens through which the visitor can understand Warhol, not just as a seminal Pop artist who captured a moment in our past, but, as Scala notes, as an artist who shaped or anticipated many of the attitudes of our own times. Today, as boundaries between art forms dissolve, as the separation between studio practice and life is constantly challenged, as we seek new ways to define how our world is shaped through the filter of mass media and the Internet, we continue to feel the abiding presence of Andy Warhol.