A once-in-a-lifetime event at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York dedicated to the greatest exponent of American PoP-Art
“From A to B and Back Again” will open its doors on November 12th, 2018, and comes to a close on March 31th, 2019, offering an unparalleled exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol. The numbers are impressive: three curators, 8 years of work, 350 works on display, stellar insurance premiums. The superintendent of the event is Donna De Salvo, who collaborated with Warhol in the 1980’s. The exhibition is touring and, after the New York event, will move first to San Francisco and then to Chicago. In New York, however, the location is important – it is in fact the new home of the museum, designed by Renzo Piano.
The name comes from a book that Warhol published in 1975 in which he talks about himself and America. He offers the reader his philosophy of life, which is that of Pop Art, an artistic phenomenon born in the mid 1950s in England. However, the movement would reach in the United States – place of the mythical – its consecration.
Pop Art is the fruit of the consumer society. Warhol, turning away from the past, considers only the present; moreover, what is the present if not a series of products intended for mass consumption? The contents are therefore taken from reality, not our daily reality, but rather that offered by mass media. Old iconographies have fallen by the wayside, long-dead are Christ, the gods, and the faces of famous people, whether they are the stars of cinema and sport or political figures, become idols on display, albeit lacking in human depth. They are the new saints of mass society.
The image has devoured their humanity. Goods and faces in fact share the same destiny, made more attractive, shown in sequence, yet trivialized, prisoners of the role and economic value that the company has assigned them. The repetition of an object does not confirm its authenticity. On the other hand, repetition creates ambiguity and disorientation. The truth disappears and the image remains, without volume and with unnatural colours, like a comic book out of an advertiser’s mind.
The sense of “unreality” increases through the use of contrasting colours that do not always coincide with the contours – the system of four-color process that progressively accentuates the “out of register”, and the use of screen printing which, for example, simplifying the faces and removes the signs of time.
As an advertiser, Warhol knows which levers to move in order to grasp the masses, how to manipulate and captivate, understanding the mechanisms to make a product a success. All this pours into his production leaving us a doubt: are they works of art? Advertising operations? Intellectual games? What is the purpose? What is certain is that for Warhol, mass products are the perfect expression of democracy “the richest consumer buys essentially the same things as the poorest”. He also knows that it is ambiguity that generates interest and if in his works it is all clear, in reality nothing is more ambiguous than what is shown to us without shadows, because it cannot be true.
The Pop movement, despite the reserves expressed by art critics, saw an extraordinary success also because it expressed itself in forms that the general public could understand.
If the author fascinates you, in New York you will also find the exhibition Andy Warhol: Shadows (26 October -15 December 2018) organized by the Dia Art Foundation at the Calvin Klein Headquarters, where part of the serigraphs from the “Shadows” series will be exhibited – a production of 102 canvases made in the ’70s, today dismembered among various collections. Gigantic images with indistinct shapes and bright colours, where the artist investigates the theme of visual perception.
Anna Maria Calabretta