vendredi 15 mai 2009

Warhol portraits: the glory of superficiality

I'm about to leave to go the library, but I felt like writing a little entry about the Andy Warhol exhibit I went to see at the Grand Palais a few days ago.
"Non-plussed" is the word that comes to mind. I was uninterested in those portraits, uninterested in the sleekness of the faces, the lack of imperfections. And I was almost angry to see such craftsmanship wasted on superficiality. When Warhol says he's a commercial artist, I respect that. But he seems to use that tag of "commercial artist" to prevent himself from questionning his own talent and artistry.
The few paintings I almost enjoyed were the imperfect ones, the ones where something apart from the faces appeared. But that didn't happen often. And, ironically, I was much more touched by the polaroid pictures that were taken to create the paintings, because they were at least raw and real.
As I was walking from room to room, I couldn't help thinking about Richard Avedon, and the way he caught a form of truth in his portraits of the rich and beautiful people. Something that went beyond the glitter and the makeup. He also claimed his right as an artist to be commercial, and didn't apologize about it. But he nevertheless chose to delve deep into the art of photography and consider the people posing in front of him as people and not icons or objects representing modern times. Perhaps that's the way we need to read Warhol's art: a conservation of the iconic in the people he portrayed. A trace of the inhuman, the purely plastic side of humanity. Perhaps, but that is so utterly opposite to my understanding of humanity that I'm not able to understand Warhol's entreprise. There's got to be some form of compassion in a painting or in any form of art in order to be engaged with the work on a deeper level. No?

For an overview of the exhibit, see here:

And, to prove my point about Warhol and Avedon, here are both artist's depictions of a modern icon, Marilyn Monroe: (And I have to say, Warhol's Marilyn series was one of my favourites in the exhibit, because it was a fresh take on fame, but his 1980's portraits are so mecanical that the brilliance of his method is not enough to sustain the viewer and to refrain him/her from being bored and unengaged)

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, 1967

Richard Avedon, Marilyn Monroe, New York city, May 6, 1957.

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