Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Andy Warhol: The Portfolios Dulwich Picture Gallery

I never used to like Andy Warhol's work.  However I've changed my mind this year after seeing his work on display the exhibition Andy Warhol: The Portfolios at Dulwich Picture Gallery and The Queen: Art and Image exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Between 1962 and 1984, Andy Warhol's artwork was primarily silk screen prints - his signature process.
Andy Warhol was a printmaker.  If he printed on canvas it was a painting, if it was on paper it was a print  and if you do multiples of them it's a portfolio of prints.
The exhibition comprises some 80 works from 13 portfolios.  It's the very first time that these portfolios - rom the collection of the Bank of America - have visited Europe as an exhibition.  The portfolios include the following....

Campbell's Soup Series II by Andy Warhol
The Campbell's Soup can is the iconic picture associated with Warhol. They make rather more sense when you know that his Slovakian immigrant family were poor and he ate Campbell's Soup every lunchtime when he was a child.

Flower Series by Andy Warhol
Some of the series demonstrate the different 'not quite fitting' colourways he worked with.

Space Fruit: Still Lifes by Andy Warhol

Portraits of Ten Great Jews of the Twentieth Century by Andy Warhol
Warhol made a considerable name for himself as a portraitist.  He used to take polaroids of celebrities and became a society portraitist.  When he portrayed dead people he had to work with the photographs of other people. He combines a pared down version of the photograph with drawing and colour shapes known as "arty rectangles".  It's amazing how familiar photographs come alive with the treatment given by Warhol.

Endangered Species and Myths by Andy Warhol
plus A portrait of Andy Warhol by Robert Maplethorpe
In the last room in the exhibition he also portrayed more unusual subjects in the Endangered Species and Myths (1981) portfolio.  These are hung with Keith Haring's Andy Mouse portfolio which was created as a homage to Warhol and a photograph of Warhol taken by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1986.  It's a curious juxtaposition - not least because a number of the hang, as you can see from the photogaph.  One gets the impression that somebody had a lot of fun hanging this room as a print room.

Other iconic images include his portrait of Marilyn Monroe and Mohammed Ali.

Vesuvius (1985) print series by Andy Warhol
I thought his short series based on an early nineteenth century painting of Vesuvius exploding exploding was particularly effective.

The great thing about the exhibition at Dulwich is that it demonstrates that Warhol is a very fine colourist.  The colourways are amazing and the result is highly decorative - but not in a bad way!.  Dejardin references Francis Boucher and the eighteenth century and hung the prints together decoratively as you would in the eighteenth century
"Stack 'en high and make it decorative"
Warhol's use of diamond dust as a surface for his screenprints was both innovative and is demonstrated clearly in this exhibition.

Ian Dejardin, The Sackler Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery has done a brilliant introduction to the exhibition - which is now on YouTube

The Bank of America Collection is one of the most diverse corporate art collections in the world. It has an Art in Our Communities® programme which enables museums and non-profit galleries around the world to borrow complete or customised exhibitions at no cost, guaranteeing that the collection is shared with as wide an audience as possible.

Exhibition Information. Andy Warhol: The Portfolios 20 June – 16 September 2012
Tickets: £10 Purchase online at www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk
Senior Citizens £9, Unemployed, disabled, students £5, children and Friends free
Education and Event Programme

Public Courses Andy Warhol: Silk Screen Printing Saturday 11 – Sunday 12 August 2012 10.30am – 4pm This two day course will explore the essential qualities of simple silkscreen printing. With artist Carole Waller. £70 (Concessions and Friends £65) Prices are for two days. Lunch is not included

There are also a number of community engagement print workshops being run in association with the exhibition - more details from the website

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