The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Warhol at UMass

The Exhibit

Last year this portrait of Michael Jackson by Andy Warhol sold for $300,000 dollars.

After Jackson died this year, two months later it sold for a cool million, proving once again that in the art world there is no more profitable career move than to die.

Such evidence of the power of celebrity would have interested the New York artist Andy Warhol, who was fascinated with all aspects of fame and celebrity culture and the ways in which it influenced people. There is a collection of some of Andy Warhol's photographs currently on display at the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, and a giant wall sized poster alerts the campus to the location.

I could find no record of Warhol ever visiting our Valley, but UMass Magazine reports that in 1965 a UMass art class took a field trip to New York to visit Warhol at his art studio:

In 1965, Deborah Wye ’66 (far right) and her classmates Sarah Kelly ’66 (left) and Roberta Bernstein ’66 (second from left) visited Andy Warhol's Factory in New York with other UMass Amherst students studying pop art under then-professor Carl Belz.

Although best known for his paintings, Warhol was an obsessive photographer, taking his camera with him everywhere and shooting an average of a roll of film per day. For those who don't recall pre-digital photography, a roll of film typically took 24 pictures.

Warhol was not a first rate artist, since he never attempted to tackle any of the profound and heroic themes that concern the highest levels of art. In fact, his main interest seemed to be the shallow and the mundane, with celebrity culture intriguing him primarily for its one dimensional and fleeting nature. Everyone could be famous for fifteen minutes, he famously said, which was both an insult to the culture of celebrity and a complement to the masses, implying that everyone has at least one virtue that would justify a flash of fame.

His photographs reflect his anti-art attitude. There is little attempt to be artistic, as he usually just whipped out his camera and clicked away very informally. The results were sometimes blurry with bad lighting and captured his subjects in unflattering poses, none of which was helped by Warhol's fondness for cheap Polaroids. However these are not just any old cocktail party pictures, since the circles in which Warhol moved were usually populated with some of the most famous public figures of the late 20th century. The UMass display includes this Polaroid of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

In his Washington D.C. office, Senator Kennedy prominently displayed the portrait of himself painted by Warhol, as seen in this photo taken by former Hampshire Gazette/Amherst Bulletin reporter Mary Carey in January.

Warhol was a pioneer of sexual freedom in that he used homoerotic subject matter before it became fashionable.

The exhibit includes art by modern artists whose work is heavily influenced by Warhol. Serial arrangement of images and the use of repetition were common Warhol styles, reflected in this wall montage.

The artist also strives to match Warhol's sexual shock techniques.

Warhol sometimes made whimsical sculptures based on commerical products, but this box copies Warhol's work too closely.

More successful is this pile of trash - with a cherry on top! An often redeeming feature of Warhol's work was his sense of humor.

Pop art relied heavily on distortion, but some things are recognizable no matter what.

I predict you will like this art show, so don't miss it. The UMass gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 2 to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and holiday. The Warhol exhibit is FREE and open to the public. For more information, call 545-3670 or click here.

My Pics

I resemble Warhol in that I also take my camera everywhere and photograph everyone and everything. These ancient willows at UMass far predate the skyscrapers that now tower over them.

I'm familiar with this term, but never before saw it used as a point of pride. Also, that vehicle has got balls.

A sentiment after my own heart.

The woodland way into downtown Northampton today at dawn.

1 comment:

University Gallery said...

Thanks for coming to our exhibition! You should come back in the spring and check out the new exhibitions (and maybe give people a nice personalized tour like you did here). In the meantime, if you liked the Rob Pruitt walls of photos (iPruitt), he will be talking about them on November 18th at 5:30pm in the gallery. Hope to see you there!