Spending a lot of time bedridden as a child allowed Warhol to draw, collect images of film stars and to ‘develop his personality’. He moved to New York in the 60s and, after finding fame in illustration, he turned to creating more obscure art such as the famous Campbell’s soup paintings and his famous studio ‘The Factory’ in Manhattan. That became the focal point of his life, and Warhol surrounded himself with other artists, musicians, drug users and free thinkers known as the Warhol Superstars. They numbered David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Mick Jagger, Madonna and Anita Pallenberg and he often included them in his films and events – things like the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’.
Warhol, who would have been 86 this August, is considered of one of the most influential artists of the last century. He was a pioneer in modern art, being one of the first people to use film as a form of artistic expression and designed many album covers, including Sticky Fingers and The Velvet Underground + Nico, which are arguably more famous than their music.
It was Warhol’s belief that art should be for everyone, and that mentality can be seen through his use of various media outlets – he demonstrated that you don’t have to be good at drawing or painting to become an artist. The exhibition at the Tate Gallery in Liverpool is a multimedia experience consisting of televisions and The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. This somewhat bizarrely-named exhibition is a room with images of Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed and other Superstars being projected onto the walls, with flashing lights and the Velvet Underground blaring in the background. It creates quite a surreal atmospheric replication of 1960s New York.
He once said “everything I do is concerned with death” and he wasn’t lying. His macabre prints of the assassination of JFK and the Electric Chair are exhibited at the Tate among the more iconic pieces such as the Marilyn Diptych and the Brillo boxes. His fascination with the cult of celebrity is can be clearly seen, with images of Elvis Presley, various covers of Interview Magazine with stars such as Mick Jagger, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson and a television playing videos of Debbie Harry. His famous album covers have pride of place on the wall, as well as little portraits of the Beatles (there’s nowhere in Liverpool that doesn’t have a Beatles reference or memorabilia). There’s also a large silkscreen print of Gun – a work which shows his creative process of illustration and printing. There’s no denying his colossal influence on graphic designers, looking at this piece.
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Aside from the gloom and celebrity shrines, his satirical nature is captured by the Paint by Numbers, right next to the colourful Marilyn Monroes, Campbell’s soups and Brillo boxes.
The Tate’s Transmitting Andy Warhol is not just an exhibition but an experience – taking you on a journey throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. The colours and model pieces are truly mesmerising, and you can see why Andy Warhol is as relevant now as he ever has been.
Words by Olivia Walsh.