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Review: Andy Warhol at TIFF Bell Lightbox

I've thought of Andy Warhol as an overrated artist, so when I heard there was a Warhol exhibition at the TIFF Lightbox Gallery, I didn't pay much attention to it, until I got a couple of free tickets. I'll pretty much check out anything with free tickets attached to it, except to see Phantom of the Opera, which we were offered, but turned down on our way to see Warhol (true story).

The exhibition (a collaboration between the Andy Warhol Museum and TIFF) was compact, like a well packed carry-on suit case. Every inch of the space is used to display Warhol's collections of items, art, videos, photography, posters, memorabilia...the man was a hoarder, that became apparent. There was so much to peruse though, in order to get a better understanding of who this man was and what he was about. This man was obsessed celebrity and the glamourous life. He loved collecting photo images of movie stars and models starting from a young age. Seeing where Warhol's fascination began brings to light the reasoning behind the type of art he did. Once I saw that, it became far more interesting, and even beautiful. Photos and posters were already in production for celebrity fans, however, artistic impressions had not yet emerged in the 1960, until Warhol started creating them as mass production. For me, the proliferation of so many copies is what loses the art's integrity. As individual pieces, standing alone, they are quite sublime and intriguing, especially considering there was nothing else like it at the time. There was one photograph in the exhibition taken in his studio where you see a pile of stretched canvases of one of the typcial famous Warhol image. That's when I realized that mass producing his art to make it as prolific as possible, at the time, was what made his career as an artist so successful. His work got out there, a lot of it got out there. His subject matter was also his obsession, famous icons. Brilliant. His passion was shared amongst many, it was and remains relevant. This is where I think the brilliance gets muddled, is it the art or the business that made him such a success? I liked his art, as long as I saw only one. Once it was a pile of "art work" it seemed to lose its value, worth, integrity. And yet, can I deny his success? Absolutely not. He has achieved what every artist dreams of, financial security by doing what he loved.

The exhibition encompassed a sense of what it was like to be in Warhol's world, his space. There were videos he had taken as well as a small recreation of Factory studio. What I found fascinating was his ability to get hundreds of people to volunteer to take screen tests for a project. Three minutes infront of a Bolex camera to do whatever the subject wanted. I thought to myself, "if I asked hundreds of people/random strangers/friends/family/aquaintences to be filmed in front of a camera for three minutes, I don't think I would get so many". Then at the end of the exhibition, we are invited to do exactly that. My initial instinctive response? No way! However, after thinking out loud through the idea, I came to terms with what a good experiential exercise this was. So, I did it. OK, I did it twice. Because I didn't like the first one. And I'm a perfectionist that way. I'd do a third one, if I could.

If you do want to see my Screen Test, in all it's glory, click on this link:


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