11 September 2006

Andy Warhol: Stars, Deaths and Disasters 1962 - 1964

Supernova, now at the Art Gallery of Ontario (until 22 October), is an assembly of more than twenty silkscreen images and paintings from the sixties, produced by Andy Warhol at his Factory in New York City. This is not the familiar pop-art Warhol of Campbell's soup and Brillo boxes fame. Rather it is of an artist obsessed with celebrity, glamour, sexuality, disaster, catastrophe, and inexorably death. Juxtaposed with Troy Donahue, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, and Jacqueline Kennedy are scenes of horrific actual car crashes, poisonings, and suicides, along with frequent stark imagery of the electric chair.
Essential part of the presentation is spoken commentary by David Cronenberg, and by many others — critics, actors, some of whom knew the artist and worked with him. Placed in context the multiple iconographic work and films make a surprising and disturbing impact. When John Giorno (poet) asked the artist: "What are you working on now?" — the answer was: "Death".
Projected on the walls of each room is a film, each a curiosity in its own right, including Empire (an eight-hour static, almost eery viewing of the Empire State Building), Couch (candid everyday sexuality at the Factory), and Blow Job (the sublime face of fellatio), all created in 1964.

PBS recently broadcast a four-hour study of the artist's genius:
Andy Warhol: a documentary film (USA, 2006)
dir. Ric Burns
see: "A portrait of an artist both loved and hated" (NYT, 20 September 2006)

photo: anonymous, in Blow Job (USA, 1964)