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Warhol, fascinated by contradictions, famously said, “I am a deeply superficial person.” The Muscarelle Museum of Art presents Deeply Superficial, on view from November 7, 2009 to January 17, 2010, an exhibition featuring over 100 of Warhol’s photographs, film and silkscreens of glamorous celebrities, socialites, and artists of the 60s and 70s, including Edie Sedgwick, Dennis Hopper, Bob Dylan, and Salvador Dali. This cutting-edge, multi-media exhibition offers a fresh interpretation of the conceptual underpinnings and the ambiguous “voyeurism” of his portraits in film, photography, and silkscreen and offers a rare look through Warhol’s eyes at
his world, and his artistic process.
Intrigued by image and fame, Warhol brought his camera wherever he went. He took thousands of tabloid-style photographs of the faces of New York’s party scene. He was also commissioned by the rich and famous to create “high art” silkscreen portraits in the style of his famous Marilyn silkscreens. Taken together, these works constitute one of the largest explorations of the human face by any artist. The exhibition includes rarely-seen works drawn from the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Andy Warhol Museum, private collections, and recent acquisitions of the Muscarelle Museum of Art. Visitors will be immersed in a fascinating presentation of Warhol’s way of looking and artistic process, including quotes by Warhol on his subjects.
A major part of the exhibition explores Warhol’s commissioned silkscreen portraits along with their Polaroid source images. Warhol rejected the traditional aim of the portrait genre to capture the soul, drawing instead on the visual language of Hollywood and popular culture to emphasize surface beauty. The exhibition revisits Warhol’s deeply conceptual use of this mass-media visual language—serial repetition, the grid format, the closeup, and the interplay between still and moving images—to show how he turned his subjects into Pop art “superstars” – a word he coined.
In addition to photographs and silkscreen paintings, the exhibition features Warhol’s voyeuristic Screen Tests, riveting three-minute film portraits that are among his most remarkable and least known works. This is the first time these experimental “living portraits,” which appear at first glance to be still pictures, will be exhibited alongside his instant Polaroid snapshots and silkscreen portraits, which unfold temporally like film strips. Taken together, the show offers new insights into the way he applied a mass-media aesthetic of serial repetition to the representation of “celebrity,” and reveals how he brought film, photography, and painting together in a fascinating and radical dialogue Warhol coined the famous phrase, “In the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” For Warhol, Polaroid was the digital technology of the pre-digital era. Examining the way that Warhol’s chief concerns – voyeurism, notoriety, and popular culture – are at play in his multi-media portraits, the exhibition demonstrates his prescient glimpse into today’s media-obsessed society in the form of tabloids, YouTube, and Facebook. Much like Warhol’s own social experiment, the exhibition includes a component in which visitors can become the objects of their own—digital—“screen tests.”