Monday, June 18, 2007

Andy Warhol: Modern Master!?

Poignant and prolific, Jane Kaufmann has been a sculptor for divers decades. Jane is both opinionated and fearless - her comical sculpture has taken on many matters of seriousness including politics, war, domesticity and aging. Visceral and direct, her work has brought eminent bliss to many and offense to a few. Jane recently brought in a new sculpture depicting "Old Andy Warhol". I cannot help but recognize a connection: Throughout her career, Jane has challenged the definintion of fine art, as did the "Prince of Pop".

As a central figure in the Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol became famous world wide for his work as an artist, filmaker, author, record producer and as a public figure. His social cirlce consisted of bohemians, intellectuals, celebrities and wealthy aristocrats. Warhol is perhaps most remembered for his bizaar and enigmatic personality; his vulnerablility is perfectly captured in this portrait by Alice Neel (she is, by the way, one of my favorite painters!)

He was a controversial figure, hated by many critics who believed his work was all a "hoax". The quintessence of Warhol's art was to remove the difference between fine arts and the commercial arts used for magazine illustrations, comic books, record albums or advertising campaigns. Warhol once expressed his philosophy in one poignant sentence: "When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums".

Though I struggle to compare a department store to a museum, I have come to respect Andy Warhol for his ideas, and understand him in the context of his time. The Pop Art movement emerged in the 1950's as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. Employing images of popular culture (as oposed to elitist culture in art), the movement made art accessible to the general public - I greatly admire Warhol and other Pop Artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein for their ability to broaden their audience.

I was recently inspired by Warhol's silkscreens, the 'Marilyn Monroe' series in particular. I used nine different images of the 'Three Graces' by Rubens, Botticelli, Carracci, Regnault, Burne-Jones, Thorvaldsen, Canova, Raphael and an unknown artist of Pompeii. In place of the of the silk-screen, I cheated, taking advantage of modern technology, specifically Adobe Photoshop, and borrowed Warhol's pallette. The nine images cleverly conceal a glass doorway leading down to my basement in the gallery.