In the corner of an otherwise white wall, a image of designer and GUESS founder Georges Marciano hangs among the quiet company of other socialites. Ironically, the space in which this portrait hangs was most recently a boutique selling the jeans that made Marciano famous – and this fame was what attracted Andy Warhol, the man who painted this portrait. Warhol was obsessed with glossy visions of fame and celebrity, and his work fits right into the polished high-fashion neighbourhood of Bloor West. Across from Holt Renfrew and just down from Tiffany’s, one of the first sights in the entrance of the Andy Warhol: Revisited exhibition is “Diamond Dust Shoes”, a painting on linen covered with crushed diamonds.
In this repurposed commercial space, Toronto-founded, LA-based gallery Revolver is displaying a selection of paintings, prints, and Polaroids from July 1st – December 31st to educate viewers on the cultural relevance of Andy Warhol through contextual engagement. The space is small and the selection well-groomed, with pieces ranging from classic prints to early paintings. Marilyn, soup cans, Queen Elizabeth and Truman Capote all make appearances, as do some that are lesser known. An effort has been made to make these works memorable, and detailed explanations and histories provide background information useful for new followers and still fascinating to those who have seen Warhol before. Collections within the collection reflect a thoughtful curation by the gallery, who represent Warhol exclusively.
The contrast of commercial art vs fine art is apparent in the surroundings as well as the art itself, asking questions about American values and global politics. Very few photos of the artist himself appear on the walls. Instead, the selected works offer an outward commentary, thoughts produced and lessons learned through personal struggle. However, in the centre of the room, four large black leather chairs sit in the middle of a small space pasted with self-portraits of Andy, a place to sit and look at him as a KPBS San Diego documentary plays on two mounted flat screen TVs. Two long silver couches offer more space to sit and soak in the creative energy provided by sharing such an intimate space with legendary artworks and those who want to see them up close.
Because Warhol was so prolific, it’s easy to confuse iconic with familiar. Andy Warhol: Revisited is a pop art exhibition that gives the work of an incredibly famous and influential artist room to breathe while being interpreted by a new generation and studied by devotees. It’s a small sampling of a massive body of work, a bite-sized chunk that is a significant step down from the overarching retrospectives offered larger galleries like the AGO in recent years. 20 year old Andrew Warhola from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania couldn’t have known that over 1000 people would attend the opening day of this exhibition in Toronto, but perhaps he dreamed about it. A refresh is planned for the fall, with a rotation of works happening in September or mid-October. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-8pm, General Admission runs $10, $8 for Seniors and $5 for Students/Youth.
Some works will be familiar to all visitors, adjacent to other works that are less popular. Here are notes on 5 aspects of the exhibit worth mentioning:
1. Dollar Sign (1981)
The Dollar Sign is a classic Warhol icon – but did you know that Andy drew it himself? Unlike many other aspects of his artwork, this symbol was drawn from scratch by the artist before being incorporated into various patterns and reproduced.
2. John Wayne (1986)
Accompanied by others from the Cowboys and Indians series, Warhol was able to circumvent legal issues surrounding the reproduction of Wayne’s famous face by recalling his paintings and erasing the edition numbers, replacing them with the word “UNIQUE”.
3. Truman Capote (1979)
This arresting image of one of Warhol’s greatest inspirations looks like it was shot in a photo booth. Staring into the camera, one can draw an easy comparison between the artist and his muse.
4. Old Fashioned Vegetable (1969) and Marilyn (1967)
Needing no introduction, two sets of three works each depict the most arguably mass-produced contemporary Warhol landmarks. They do look different in person – seeing these up-close is surreal at best, speaking to the inseparable relationship of the artist and the participant at its most impactful.
5. Energy Power (1985-1986)
Bright splashes of colour are interrupted by the dark black and white commentary of this powerful advertisement. Reflecting fears during the Cold War period, a contrast is made by the inclusion of this piece and it stands out as one of the most artistically divergent and descriptive.