Not Prince, too! Heartbroken!
Thursday, 14 April 2016
Monday, 11 April 2016
Had the pleasure to attend a very insightful talk by Gary Needham (Nottingham Trent University), today! The Topic: "Hustling Minimalism: Screen Performance in the Films of Andy Warhol". My résumé: There is sooooo much I still don't know about good old Andy! But I see this lack of knowledge as a challenge to continue collecting and accumulating all things Warhol.
Sunday, 10 April 2016
Saturday, 9 April 2016
"It is interesting to note that Marcel Duchamp, who was centrally involved in the earlier Dada movement with his infamous 'ready-mades', became venerated by New York postmodern trans-avant-garde artists in the 1960s. Here we detect a double movement. In the first place the direct challenge against the work of art, the desire to beauraticize art, to dissemble its sacred halo and challenge its respectable location in the museum and the academy. There is also the assumption that art can be anywhere or anything. The detritus of mass culture, the debased consumer commodities, could be art (here one thinks of Warhol and pop art). Art was also to be found in the antiwork: in the 'happening', the transitory 'lost' performance which cannot be museumified, as well as in the body and other sensory objects in the world. It is also worth noting that many of the strategies and artistic techniques of Dada, Surrealism and the avant-garde have been taken up by advertising and the popular media within consumer culture (see Martin, 1981)." --- Mike Featherstone on the aestheticization of everyday life in Consumer Culture and Postmodernism
Friday, 8 April 2016
It's almost a week ago that I was on my way back home from the BSA PG conference in Southampton and, instead of heading straight back to Liverpool, I made a pitstop in Oxford to see the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum.
Truth be told, I wasn't in the best mood that day. The train to Oxford was freezing cold and I was generally exhausted by a weekend of deep philosophical thought. I wasn't as excited about the museum visit as I had anticipated. Then again, Warhol, arguably more than any other artist, is often considered the master of superficiality, so I entered the exhibition thinking 'I'm just gonna look at the surfaces'.
Of course, my plan to escape the thinking machinery in my head was eventually thwarted because some of the works in the exhibition were truly stunning and completely unknown to me. I was, for example, unfamiliar with Warhol's gigantic map paintings of the former USSR (1985-86), or the Handprint paintings (1982), or the small portraits of fellow artists Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Frank Stella (all made in 1967).
The painting I liked the most was that of a female torso (1977) or, to be more precise, a female crotch. It struck me as extremely elegant and subtle, considering the fact that it was showing one of the most intimate areas of the female body. In comparison to the male version, which was hanging around (pun intended!) the corner and which depicts a large penis in a bright, pinky flesh colour, the female version is rendered in white and grey shades. But the different colorations of the paintings weren't the only thing I noticed.
The female model (in contrast to the male) had shaved off her entire pubic hair thus not only granting the spectator unobstructed visual access but also seemingly referring back to statues of female bodies in which pubic hair is usually omitted. This made me think. Apart from the connection one could draw to ancient statues, the lack of hair also evokes associations with the relentless, close up depiction of genitals in pornography. Obviously, in these circumstances pubic hair is shaved off so that the viewer can see each and every inch of the copulating body parts, showing them in full arousal. Just like in the painting, porn actors are anonymous too (at least in most cases) and the penis or vagina gain importance over the rest of any other body parts (unless you watch a specific fetish porn maybe).
So, yes, one could say that there is something pornographic in the female torso painting, too. This is in many ways not surprising given the fact that Warhol (especially in his films) mingled porn and art all the time. However, there is more to it, I think. This painting also provides a look onto female sexuality from a very detached perspective which is far removed from the horniness of porn. Since Warhol was gay he looked upon the female private parts from an entirely different angle than a straight man would do. While I think that he really had a curiosity for the female sex in as far as he was intrigued in its otherness and the sensuality that is so often associated with it, he wasn't interested in any form of physical contact with women.
It appears to me that some of the elegance of the female torso painting stems from the fact that it may be one of the most neutral looks upon a female crotch that one may possibly get. As a woman and a feminist, I often find myself getting angry at the fact that so many depictions of women in museums and galleries go back to a very traditional 'male gaze' which is always looking at women with a specifically male eroticism. This is not to say that Warhol's torso painting is not possibly arousing for straight men. Yet, there is a certain 'coolness' about it which is, in my opinion, opposed to the 'hotness' one could for example associate with Gustav Courbet's The Origin of the World.
Despite the fact that Courbet chose to portrait his model's crotch with a full bush, thus covering up parts of the labia, his painting shows a lot more than Warhol's work does. Especially considering the time in which it was created, I wouldn't be surprised if some men used this image for some heavy masturbation (not saying that there is necessarily something wrong with this). Courbet's work simply reeks of male fantasy. The spread legs, the genitals clearly in the foreground of the painting, ready to be penetrated. The woman as a powerful spring of life but only if the male phallus enters, conquers her. Otherwise the power she has is simply that of generating male arousal which is (we all know it) really just a brief moment.
Warhol's portrait of the female torso is more distancing. It does not necessarily render female sexuality as something liberating or empowering (or give an insight to the way women perceive their sexual desires) but it doesn't beg for male arousal and penetration either. Whoever the model was, she clearly had a beautiful body and two cute beauty spots right beneath the belly button. Yet, if someone from a different universe would look at this painting without the 'human sex drive' they may just take pleasure in the shapes and shades of this artwork rather than its 'content'. I guess Warhol was in many ways 'alien enough' to provide us with this view.
In the end, the exhibition did lighten my mood and I ended up with booty: the catalogue (for only ten pounds!!! special offer on that particular day, lucky me) and the book On & By Andy Warhol, edited by Gilda Williams.
P.S.: Now that I'm reading through this post again, I want to do research on the topic of pubic hair in the depiction of female bodies through the course of art history. If no one else has done this yet, I call dibs on this idea!!!