Edie: Warhol’s Outer and Inner Space.
Warhol: Portraits from the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy
Andy Warhol: Outer and Inner Space
Look This Way: Photographic Portraits from the University
Art Museum, University at Albany, through Dec. 21
Obsessed with celebrity? Think you should be one? Blame it
on Andy Warhol. As a pioneer life-blogger, Warhol sought to
make even the most mundane aspects of his life seem significant.
That’s not altogether a bad thing, but most of us aren’t generally
interested in what average people are doing every second of
their lives. Aside from their not being all that compelling,
we’re busy dealing with our own lackluster banality!
In reality, Warhol’s interest in celebrity was not as crass
as it is often portrayed. His obsession with stars and society
people was part of a larger inquiry into American pop culture
that infiltrated all aspects of his work. Using multiple mediums,
Warhol reproduced the world around him, and photography was
crucial to his art making.
Warhol took some 100,000 photographs between 1977 and 1987.
On display on the second floor of the University Art Museum
are 102 of his Polaroids and 51 of his gelatin silver prints.
Given to the museum by the Andy Warhol Foundation’s Photographic
Legacy Program, these images attest to the artist’s commitment
to recording his surroundings. They are a visual record of
Warhol’s milieu, the people he encountered, the places he
visited, and the day-to-day aspects of his life as artist
and archivist. He explained that “a picture means I know where
I was every minute. That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual
diary.” Warhol used the camera much like he used a tape recorder,
as a surrogate, a mediator, and as raw material for his paintings,
silk-screens, films, and novels.
In this exhibition, the photographs are configured into groupings
based on either staged Polaroid portraits or more spontaneous
black-and-white images. While the Polaroids are more intimate,
the black and white images are more casual. Some depict social
settings in which groups of people such as celebrities, models,
socialites, and powerful business people interact, while others
are street scenes or studies of a single gem or a hotel bathroom.
Driven by curiosity about other people’s lives, Warhol was
fascinated with portraiture. The Polaroids, which often were
used as visual aids for his silkscreen portraits, are composed
of “sittings” in which people are posed for the camera. Many
depict well-known celebrities and business tycoons while others
are of casual acquaintances or the children of patrons. Some
individuals are presented in multiple head shots while others,
mostly celebrities, are represented by just one single image.
Examples include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pia Zadora, Diana Vreeland,
Carolina Herrera, and Georgia O’Keeffe with Juan Hamilton.
The inclusion of single celebrity shots fails to capture Warhol’s
process. Given his fascination with repetition and reproduction,
the multiple images of the same person are far more revealing.
The double-screen video work titled Outer and Inner Space
is also presented as an example of Warhol’s pioneering efforts
at film and video portraiture. In it, Edie Sedgwick converses
with her own video image. The viewer watches Sedgwick watching
herself while keeping up an incessant and mostly inaudible
commentary. The quadruple image is haunting, sad, and endlessly
fascinating. It is a great balance to the static images surrounding
Downstairs are equally compelling photographic portraits from
the museum’s permanent collection. There are recognizable
images by Edward Steichen of Greta Garbo, Alfred Steiglitz,
Lillian Gish, and other celebrities of the silver screen.
There are also portraits by Lucien Clergue of the artists
Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau and portraits by Helmut Newton
of the artist David Hockney and the fashion and jewelry designer
Paloma Picasso and even of Warhol. Newton’s images of fashion
and celebrity parallel those of Warhol’s upstairs. Also mirroring
his more candid style are photographs by Larry Clark and Mary
Ellen Mark. Perhaps the most interesting correlation between
the two shows are the photographs by Larry Fink that capture
social interactions using dramatic light and shadow.
Both exhibitions offer much to contemplate about what makes
a captivating image. If you don’t get your fill of Warhol
here, you can look forward to seeing more of the Legacy Program
photographs at two other area venues that also received gifts,
Union College and Skidmore College. But if you just can’t
wait, you can head up north to the Montreal Museum of Fine
Arts to see Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s
Work or head over to London to see Andy Warhol: Other
Voices, Other Rooms. I hear the dollar is up against the