Bratislava City Gallery ­– Allowance organisation of the City of Bratislava, capital of the Slovak Republic
BRATISLAVA

Andy Warhol | Galéria mesta Bratislavy | Allowance organisation of the City of Bratislava, capital of the Slovak Republic

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Exhibition

Andy Warhol

Mirbach Palace (show Contact)
28. 6. 2011 - 4. 9. 2011
Curator: Michal Bycko

Everything is limited by time...even the lifetime of my pictures... If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings, and there I am. There is nothing behind it.
                                                                                                                                       Andy Warhol

A man with a superficial surface on a deep background 

Everything we have come to know or say about Andy Warhol seems to have been conceptually determined by the artist in advance. We are the actors in his unending solo happening. By referring to Warhol´s oeuvre as Pop Art , we have simplify many important and ambiguous aspects of his work. It is as if there is nothing to deduce, search, or compare anymore.  The works of Andy Warhol are not only urban folklore. They represent something that, laconically speaking, ran away from kitsch but did not chase the goals of academic standards. Perhaps, this was intentional. Analysing and studying the life and oeuvre of Warhol, we discover that his life and work created an integral unit, a kind of conceptual theatre, where a dramaturge, director and actor-protagonist, is a single person – Andy Warhol, a man who lived life like a viewer watching the story of his life in a cinema.   
     Andy Warhol was born on 6 August 1928 as the fourth child of Ondrej Varchola and Júlia (née Zavacka) from the East Slovak village Miková near Medzilaborce. Their first daughter, Jozefína, was born in Slovakia (1911) and died while dodging the frontline of World War I (1914). The sons Paul, John and Andy were born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (their father emigrated before WWI and their mother in 1921; some sources, however, state the year as 1913 in the case of the mother and the years 1918-1921 in the case of the father). In spite of the fact that today accurate data (MMUAW Archive in Medzilaborce) for the birth and death of Andy Warhol (6 August 1928 – 22 February 1987) are available, many encyclopaedias still cite different dates. The extensive documentation in the MMUAW archive has clearly confirmed Warhol´s Ruthenian origin. His statements relating to his roots can be considered a sort of programme, a concept that not only irritated art historians and theorists, but also created a conceptual mystery. For instance, his statement “I come from nowhere!” can be explained in many different ways. John Warhola, AWF Vice-President, understood his brother´s statement as a fact that the country (Upper Hungary) from which their parents had come ceased to exist. Others have associated the statement with the artist´s phobia of death, which he fought against with statements, such as “I never think that people die. They just go to department stores.” His ideas about birth were very similar. He almost childishly believed that we arrive into this world as light. Warhol´s first word was “sun”. According to his eldest brother Paul, when their mother was giving birth to Andy, she was screaming, “...I can see the light!” For a long time, the Warhol family attached a magical power to this fact, considering it to be a message, a warning.
     Warhol´s star began to shine in the 1950s when he left Pittsburgh for New York and started working as an advertising illustrator. In a journal that he kept all of his life he noted that he was not satisfied with life in the city because “...no one is interested in the feelings of other people; everyone lives their own life...” He visited editorial offices and publishing houses, offering his drawings, but to no avail. The rejection of his works by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (a copy of a rejection letter is part of the exposition of MMUAW in Medzilaborce) had a negative impact on his neurotic personality. He lived in emotional and social isolation until he attracted the attention of Leo Castelli, an art dealer who displayed his works in the exhibition of the representatives of New Realism. Warhol’s works were both praised and criticised. In his opinion, this was the first step on the way to becoming a superstar. He sold his paintings and graphics of Campbell soup cans and his name hit the headlines of significant newspapers and magazines. One editor, by mistake, mangled his name to “Andy Warhol”. He apologised, but Warhol´s commentary was as follows, “...it is a good idea because I have never liked my name... Now it looks much better for a superstar!” He started selling his paintings with success and moved from a rented basement apartment to a big studio that he called the Factory. It was here where the most important part of his creative and personal live took place. He was visited by street people as well as celebrities from the areas of art and politics. He became the most popular New York artist and his presence at VIP parties was an absolute must. He took this very hard, as “...people waste their time at various parties, and then they are surprised how much work they could have done...“ He wrote in his diary, “I have to go to a party with Liz Taylor again... I have to take Valium!” 
     The turning point in Andy Warhol´s life came with an attempt in 1968 on his life by Valerie Solanas. He feared for his life and his Factory became empty. The elevator where he was wounded was protected by bodyguards. In his involuntary seclusion, he focused on subjects from the 1960s. He painted pictures with religious subjects, such as the series titled Skull. He communicated with death as if he expected it to be close. He deliberately overlaid the canvases from the series Art from Art (works by old masters and classics of modern art modified in a creative way) with serigraphy, as if trying to hide any facts about his person, work and world. He found his way to a department store that led to a hospital where, on 22 February 1987, he died of postoperative complications after gallbladder surgery. 
     The following words may sound a bit morbid, but it is as if the artist decided to be in the right place at the right time. He never wanted to get old like a burned out superstar. He did not want to live like his mother who, “...every day, in agony caused by large intestine cancer, prayed to God to end this madness...“ His last performance, death, turned the worlds of business, art, philosophy, and art theory upside down. The quotation of Robert Rauschenberg, “Not every Warhol is a good Warhol, but there is no such thing as a bad one,” could serve as an epitaph.  

Dr. Michal Bycko, PhD.
Chief curator of MMUAW and AWS chairman

 

 

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