Exhibition open from 19th Nov 2016 – 16 April 2017.The work of the legendary painter Andy Warhol is currently being featured at The Whitworth as part of the ‘Artist Rooms’ exhibitions. The critical artist also known as the ‘salesman’ of the art world is famously known for his Pop Art. The themes of death, identity, politics and the American Dream are a running theme within Warhol’s artwork. Which also ties in with the recent news of the U.S.A presidential election, 2016. With the exhibition launch just a few days after the US Presidential election, it highlights the sharp and critical views that Warhol had of America in a new light. With the themes of politics portrayed through repeated dollar signs and guns which are still to this day culturally powerful.
Andy Warhol who died almost 30 years ago, is still seen as one of the most iconic and influential contemporary artists of the 20th century. Warhol’s most famous pieces of work that many will recognise were linked to celebrity culture and advertising, such as dollar bills, Campbell’s Soup Can, Coca-Cola bottles and also he painted legendary stars such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.
‘What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too.” – Andy Warhol.
Andy Warhol’s eerie obsession with death began when he was shot by feminist activist, Valerie Solanas in 1968. He was pronounced dead but then received an open-heart massage where he was revived. This traumatic experience inspired the darker side of Andy Warhol to focus all his artwork around the idea of death, and even displayed the scars of his attack for the world to see. The theme of death runs through the group of abstract paintings called ‘The Shadows’ in the 1970s.
In Warhol’s 1981 duo of repeated frames, ‘The gun’ illustrated here, is a similar type of model (22 snub-nosed pistol) that Solanas used in her attack. The painting represents the artist’s judgement of violent culture in society. ‘Gun’ along with the various other repeated frames, were painted 13 years prior to his near death incident. Andy Warhol was never the same after the attack, the murder attempt left him in a shaken state, he was both physically and mentally scarred and this showed through his art.
The Electric Chair
The Electric chair series is an unnerving yet fascinating arrangement of silk-screened paintings. Warhol first painted the iconic electric chair in 1963, over the years he continually returned to the painting to reflect on the political debate of the death penalty America in the 1960s. The painting symbolises a metaphor for death. In 1968 Warhol recreated the original electric chair painting, into a series of paintings. The original was cropped to have the main focus on the electric chair and was screened in multiple colours. By the artist’s account, the replication of the image was intended to “empty” it of meaning, it shows a different view of the world.
If you are a fan or not of Andy Warhol, I would definitely recommend visiting the exhibition. A good thing about The Whitworth is that is has free entry, so I wouldn’t miss this amazing opportunity to see some of the best contemporary art from the legendary artist himself.
Below is a few other photos of the exhibition.