16 February 2016

Warhol at the Ashmolean

A survey of mid to late Warhol which should not be missed

Oxford seems to have a thing about Warhol. As recently as last March Modern Art Oxford was showing Love is Enough: William Morris & Andy Warhol curated by Jeremy Deller. Perhaps it derives from Warhol’s only visit, made in 1980 when he escaped from London to a party in north Oxford. Now, Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection is at the Ashmolean Museum. The Hall and Hall Art Foundation was set up in Vermont in 2007 by Andrew and Christine Hall and holds about 5000 modern and contemporary works by numerous artists. Andrew Hall is an Oxford graduate who manages a hedge fund in the US. The Foundation loans its own works and those in the Halls’ own collection and has a partnership with the Ashmolean to present a series of exhibitions curated by Sir Norman Rosenthal.

This exhibition begins with Warhol in the 1960s, the period when he was establishing “The Factory” and producing silkscreen images - Self-portrait (1967, in the poster above) and copies of iconic objects - Brillo Soap Pads Box (1964, below right):

Part of the fascination of the multiple screen prints is the extent of the variations In the same run, apparent when looking at the eight prints of The American Man (Portrait of Watson Powell), (1964, above left) in the show, out of the 32 produced. There is also an opportunity to see some of the portrait films Warhol was making at this time – the four minute shorts of Marcel Duchamp (curiously, almost as conventionally respectable in appearance as RenĂ© Magritte) and Bob Dylan being more likely to be watched in full by visitors than the eight hours static view of the Empire State Building.

The 70s Portraits begins with one image of a politician, Willy Brandt (1976, below top) and several prints on various media of the artist Joseph Beuys (1980, below lower):

before, almost inevitably, the Great Helmsman with Mao (1973, left) and Twenty Fuchsia Maos (1979, right):

Most striking in this section was the wall of Celebrity Portraits. Just to pick out two of interest: Pia Miller (c1985, below left) apparently introduced Ai Weiwei’s work to the West as recently as 2008, and Farah Ashraf Pahlavi (Princess of Iran) (1977, below right) established with her cousin (also portrayed by Warhol) the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, an exceptional collection little seen since 1979 but, according to the Financial Times last December, about to re-emerge and start lending.

Nearby are some Experiments In Abstraction including the Untitled (Oxidation Painting) (1978, below left), produced, we are told, by urinating onto copper, and some jollier handprints and Hammer and Sickle (1976, below right):

The final section, The Last Year, actually covering 1985 to Warhol’s untimely death in February 1987, was well-stocked but less interesting. He was producing black and white images inverted to provide positive and negative versions, eg Hamburger (positive) (1985‒86, below top) and the Map of the Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases (1985-86, below lower, negative; for the positive see the Modern Art Oxford show post): 

Nearby on the gallery wall was a quotation from the artist:
Black is my favourite colour and white is my favourite colour
No point in laboring what might be wrong with that!

This exhibition provides a welcome opportunity to see a selection of Warhol's later work. Anyone unfamiliar with his career might be frustrated by the lack of context it provided – I didn’t see the usual timeline at the entrance - so some preliminary reading could be helpful, say 15 minutes’ worth?

Andy Warhol: Works from the Hall Collection continues at the Ashmolean until 15 May.

No comments:

Post a Comment