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Indepth Arts News:

"The Warhol Look: Glamour Fashion Style"
1999-08-28 until 0000-00-00
Auckland Art Galery
Auckland, , NZ New Zealand (Aotearoa)

The Warhol Look - Glamour, Style, Fashion presents a bold new look at Andy Warhol by examining the artists fascination with glamour, style and fashionability. Going behind the famous pop-art world Warhol inhabited, it investigates the full range of Warhols work and reveals how the Warhol style has influenced contemporary artists as well as the fashion designers, photographers and video makers of today.

Arguably the most influential artist of the second half of the 20th century, Warhol worked across many artistic fields - controversial pop artist, illustrator, photographer, film producer, publisher, costume designer and painter - he became a cultural phenomenon and icon for his time.

The Warhol Look - Glamour, Style, Fashion examines Warhols career through seven profusely illustrative phases entitled Hollywood Glamour, The 1950s, Window Display, Silver Factory Style/The 1960s, Drag & Transformation, Interview - the magazine he founded in 1969 - and Uptown/Downtown Style. It includes over 500 objects from the The Andy Warhol Museum, its archive and other international collections. Paintings, costumes, photography, period magazines, reconstructed window displays, film, video and authentic -Warholiana- feature everything from the faux to the fashionable to the fantastic.

From his childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1930s, when he collected Hollywood fan magazines and signed publicity photographs of child stars such as Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney who were his contemporaries , Andy Warhol was obsessed with glamour, style and fashionability. The son of working class immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains, Warhol was encouraged by his mother to pursue his artistic interests. A love of drawing, painting, cutting designs from paper and reading led him to enrol in free Saturday classes in studio art and art appreciation at the nearby Carnegie Institute of Technology.

At the age of 17 he enrolled in the Institutes College of Fine Arts where he majored in pictorial design. During his summer holidays, he worked as a window dresser at Hornes department store and studied fashion magazines; he also taught part-time at the Irene Kaufman Settlement. Warhol left Pennsylvania for Manhattan, New York a week after he graduated and within three months had a brilliant career as a commercial artist.

The distance between working class Pittsburgh and glitzy New York must have seemed insurmountable, but Warhol, more than any other artist, came to understand how insignificant this distance could be.

In 1985 he commented: Everybody has their own America and then they have pieces of fantasy America that they think is out there but they cant see. When I was little, I never left Pennsylvania and I used to have fantasies about things that I thought were happening ........ that I felt I was missing out on. But you can only live life in one place at a time.... You live in your dream America that youve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one.

Warhol continued his commercial display work in New York right through the 1950s with windows (on Dior for example) which were in keeping with his popular style of illustration. Breaking with this style in 1961 he created a window for Bonwit Teller in which he introduced his new Pop paintings as an ultra-contemporary backdrop. Gene Moore, at Bonwit Teller and Tiffanys, often hired artists to create window displays, and Warhol as well as Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg all experimented with this form of commercial work early in their careers. But unlike his contemporaries, Warhol remained intrigued by window display long after he achieved recognition as a fine artist.

Looking at store windows is great entertainment because you can see all of these things and be really glad its not home filling up your closets and drawers, wrote Warhol.

By the 1960s Warhol had collected large groups of press and publicity photographs of stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor and had hoarded piles of fan magazines and tabloid newspapers, as well as memorabilia such as the dress worn by Jean Harlow and the shoes by Clark Gable that are included in this exhibition. From these he culled the images that would become the source for his paintings and prints of Marilyn, and Liz, which later inspired designer Gianni Versace to give Hollywood glamour physical form in his lavish Marilyn and Liz clothing. Through these star portraits, which have retained an enduring potency, Warhol synthesised our cultures desire for a glamorous ideal.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Warhol and his entourage were a prominent feature in the new York nightclub scene. These clubs were magnets for the periods trendsetters, attracting artists and fashionable society from uptown and downtown, the establishment and the avant-garde. Participating in the worlds of fashion and glamour more actively than ever before, Warhol frequented the uptown club, Studio 54, with his friends Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger; regularly attended fashion shows by Valentino, Versace, Gaultier and others; and mingled in the downtown scene with artists such as Basquiat and Kenny Scharf. He created T-Shirts, sneakers and scarves with his own images and, in the mid-1980s, he collaborated with designer Stephen Sprouse to create a line of clothing based on his camouflage paintings.

Throughout this time, Warhol was drawn both to the flamboyant subculture of drag and attracted by the idea of personal transformation. During the 1960s, he filmed outrageous performances by Jack Smith and Mario Montez, and the transvestites Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn, and in the 1970s he created a series of black and Hispanic drag queens with the punning title Ladies and Gentlemen. His early 1960s paintings Wigs and Before and After and the diamond-dusted Shoes paintings of the 1980s may be seen simultaneously as explorations, tributes and send-ups of drag and personal transformation. Warhols own transformations were clearly visible in his dress. He began to physically transform himself in the 1950s when he had cosmetic surgery on his nose and first wore a hairpiece to cover his advancing baldness. His wigs grew ever bolder, culminating with the hard-to-miss shock of white hair that seemed like a fashion accessory, while in 1981, he used heavy make-up and array of wigs to transform himself into a variety of near-female personae, expressing the close connection between beautification, reinvention, transformation and drag.

Interview represents the pinnacle of the artists infatuation with glamour, style and fashion. Originally a monthly film journal, it quickly expanded to encompass all areas of popular art and culture. An amalgam of tabloid newspaper, fan magazine and art journal, Interview pioneered the concept of the celebrity interview with prominent personalities interviewing other ones in an intimate conversational style.

Warhols portrait paintings, photographs and video work provide a vivid picture of the worlds in which he moved in the 1970s and 1980s. He photographed the scene incessantly, just as he himself was frequently photographed, and became increasingly involved in video production. His innovative cable television series Fashion, Andy Warhols TV and Andy Warhols Fifteen Minutes covered everything from haute couture to punk. In what might appear the ultimate seduction of the fashion world, Warhol himself became a model. The artists last public appearance, only a few days before his death in February 1987, was a model for a fashion show in downtown Manhattan.

Throughout this period, Warhol served as a constant conduit of ideas among the diverse worlds he inhabited. Only now by looking back at the whole range of Warhols work are we beginning to see that his fascination with glamour, style and fashion was not a distraction from his real work, or a debasement of the rarefied, pure world of contemporary art, but an integral part of his multivalent life and work. It was also a complex and productive response to the tensions between art, popular culture and daily life.


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