Warhol's Rock-Star Photos, Drag Queens, Rare Movies Put on Show
Source:Bloomberg Author:Martin Gayford Date: 2008-10-08 Size:
The new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, ``Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms,'' aims to introduce the London public to an Andy they haven't met before.

 

 Campbell's Soup Can (Vegetable), 1962, by Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol was a hard man to pin down. According to him, that's because there wasn't anything to discover. ``Just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am,'' he said in 1966, ``There's nothing behind it.''

The new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, ``Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms,'' aims to introduce the London public to an Andy they haven't met before. While it doesn't reveal the hidden man behind the facades, it does present an amazing range of diverse work and media. There was a lot more to his output than soup cans and Marilyn.

That's the upside of this show; the bad news is that it tries to present everything to you at the same time. Consequently, there is far too much stuff on view: a sensory blizzard from which the visitor is likely to leave feeling bemused -- though possibly having had some fun en route.

The first section, entitled ``Cosmos,'' is more like a department store than a conventional exhibition installation -- more Harrods than Tate Modern. It includes examples of his famous silkscreen paintings, the main element in more conventional Warhol shows.

Here you hardly notice them. They can't compete with the ``Screen Tests'' -- films of less than three minutes about just about everyone Warhol ever met, staring at the camera. These are projected in the center of the room.

 

David Bowie

Bowie Photo

There is also a cornucopia of bric-a-brac in glass cases, including Polaroids of rock stars David Bowie and Lou Reed; drag queens; long-playing record sleeves and Warhol's rather feeble early drawings.

On the walls are Warhol's wallpapers, including a wonderful Mao design. No one else would have thought of transforming the Great Helmsman into interior decoration. That might be a stroke of genius.

Warhol's television cable shows of the 1980s aren't the best- known aspect of his work. Here there is a whole room of monitors where you can sit on a stool and sample episodes of Andy's TV, mainly fashion shoots and interviews with subjects ranging from artist Georgia O'Keeffe to model Jerry Hall.

Of course television chat shows aren't most people's idea of art, but then Andy didn't seem to make much distinction between life, art and television. ``Before I was shot I always suspected I was watching TV instead of living life,'' he observed, ``Right when I was being shot, and ever since, I knew I was watching TV.''

 

Andy Warhol, Empire, 1964

Empire State

The next gallery contains 27 films -- among them ``Sleep'' (1963) and ``The Nude Restaurant'' (1967-8) -- all being shown simultaneously. Here an obsessive Warhologist might tarry a week. ``Empire'' (1964) alone runs for more than eight hours (famously, it was shot by a stationary camera trained on the Empire State Building.)

There were some intriguing innovations in Warhol's work apart from the pop art. Those filmed portraits, for example -- in which the sitter moves and stirs like the paintings at Harry Potter's Hogwarts -- are a genuine novelty.

They have spawned a new genre, which includes more recent pieces such as Sam Taylor-Wood's video of David Beckham asleep (a combination of ``Sleep'' and Warhol's 99 minute film of ``Henry Geldzahler'' staring back at the remorseless camera).

The problem is that Warhol burst through so many categories and did so many different things -- from brilliant through trivial to exceptionally boring - that it is just impossible to fit it all into one conventional exhibition. Even this unconventional one is far too rich to digest.

[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern