Andy Warhol

Dia's Andy: Through the Lens of Patronage

May 15, 2005 - April 10, 2006

<p>Andy Warhol. <i>Portraits</i>, 1969-1986. Photo: Bill Jacobson.</p>

Andy Warhol. Portraits, 1969-1986. Photo: Bill Jacobson.

 
 
 

 

Introduction

As singular in its subject as in its scale, Andy Warhol's I (1978-79) was first exhibited in January 1979 at 393 West Broadway in New York City.1 Comprised of sixty-six from a total of 102 paintings hung edge to edge to fill the gallery, the presentation created an environment that the artist in his inimitable fashion termed "disco décor" and "one painting in many parts"; partaking of both mass culture and high art, it encapsulated Warhol's dual interests, interests that he, unlike most of his contemporaries, deemed equal in value and import. Yet Shadows was initially received with tempered enthusiasm, perhaps because at that time Warhol's reputation was in partial eclipse and because its subject was uncharacteristically abstract. However, this commission from Dia's founders has subsequently proven not only a landmark in the institution's ongoing history of patronage but one of the highpoints at Dia:Beacon, the museum designed for Dia's extensive collection of works by artists from Warhol's generation. If Dia's founders were instrumental in determining this series' unprecedented size and scope, series were nonetheless a staple of Warhol's practice. Indeed, at the time of his death in January 1987, he was preparing an installation of another, albeit smaller series, the Skulls (1976), for Dia's exhibition venue at 77 Wooster Street in Soho. Ranging from vast to tiny, a group of these paintings were to be hung on wallpaper whose design was based on one of the many drawings of this motif. In a somewhat modified guise, the show finally opened posthumously, in the fall of 1987. It was the third in Dia's sequence of Warhol exhibitions that began, in spring 1986, with a group of Disaster Paintings from 1963 (also owned by the foundation) and was followed six months later, in the fall of 1986, by a presentation of Hand-Painted Images from 1960-62, works that also came from Dia's collection.

After the opening in 1987 of its large exhibition facility at 548 West 22nd Street in Chelsea, Dia continued its commitment to Warhol's art: In 1988 it hosted a day- long symposium, "The Work of Andy Warhol": the resulting publication offers a wide-ranging examination of the seminal Pop artist's image, impact, and critical reception. An exhibition devoted to a group of Last Supper Paintings in 1994-95 was followed by a second showing of the Shadows in 1998-99, devised this time for the museum annex, located at 545 West 22nd Street. Yet Dia's most substantive act of institutional patronage was the project undertaken by former director Charles Wright, who initiated discussions with the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Carnegie Museum of Art in the late 1980s, leading to the founding of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Warhol's hometown. With the exception of the Shadows, Dia's extensive holdings of Warhol's work were donated in 1995 to form the basis of the new museum's collection.

"Dia's Andy" has been curated to celebrate the tenth anniversary of that initiative, while also paying tribute to this most prolific artist's extraordinarily heterogeneous production. Two series of paintings, the Disasters and Skulls, have been borrowed back from Pittsburgh for this occasion. The Brillo Boxes, among his most memorable sculptures, are presented here in a formation that recalls both their mode of production and their debut at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1964. The counterpointing of two other series offers a telling glimpse into the evolution of his aesthetic: The Screen Tests originated from Warhol's importuning of almost anyone who visited the Factory in the early 1960s to pose or preen for the indifferent gaze of his Bolex camera; in a wry inversion of this tactic, portraits representing the famous, nonfamous, and infamous came to dominate Warhol's enterprise in the 1980s, as prospective patrons were solicited from across the globe.

Other facets of his miscellaneous and far-reaching enterprise include the magazine Interview, which was launched in 1969 and forms the prototype for the publication accompanying this exhibition; a: a novel, his groundbreaking prose masterwork based, verbatim, on conversations with the loquacious superstar Ondine; and the Time Capsules, an omnium-gatherum of sundry items, significant and trivial, precious and paltry, collected in the guise of an archive. The contents of another four of these boxes, from a total of 612, have been newly opened for this exhibition. Like those already displayed elsewhere, they bear eloquent witness to both the catholic reach of his taste and an egalitarian, not to say indiscriminate, appetite. Today, Warhol's experimental films from the early sixties are arguably the least accessible of his key works. Selected by art historian Douglas Crimp, who is currently researching a book on this subject, this summer's film program offers a rare opportunity to explore in-depth Warhol's still-radical approach to such cinematic protocols as duration, subject matter, narrative, framing, and editing.

The enduring and possibly unrivaled impact made by Warhol's work on contemporary culture over the past half century is reflected in Louise Lawler's inspired intervention here at Dia:Beacon. As evidenced in her selection of some fifteen examples, no other artist's work figures so frequently in the photographs she has shot over the past three decades. Capturing his art "in and out of place," to borrow an apt phrase from fellow artist Andrea Fraser, Lawler's project is at once trenchant in its exploration of issues relating to the status and role of the modern masterpiece, and fond, in its homage to a maverick who continues to be reviled as well as revered within the art world and beyond.2

1. Later in 1979, this venue became the site for the long-term presentation of Walter De Maria's Broken Kilometer, also a Dia commission.

2. Andrea Fraser, "In and Out of Place," Art in America 73, no. 6 (June 1985), pp. 122-29.

Lynne Cooke

 
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