Despite a slight delay due to a) Autumn, b) Boredom, c) Booze,
I’m proud to (finally) present my account of October 15’s Artist Date: WARHOL LIVE – Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s Work
Lights… Camera… ACTION!
It’s half price on Wednesday nights.
That’s $7.50 for a four-hour high.
As soon as I enter the first room, it’s party time.
Imagine stepping into a museum of “fine arts” and coming face to face with a life-size Elvis.
Not exactly face to face as the canvas is hanging on the wall, but still… here I am standing in front of a gun-toting Elvis and I’m hearing Judy Garland sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
I think to myself, This is going to be fun.
The second room continues to explore Warhol’s
attraction to music and the stars.
We learn that it all started with a childhood crush on Shirley Temple who was sweet enough to answer his fan letter.
When Shirley strikes the first chords of On The Good Ship Lollipop,
I have to bite my lip not to sing along.
By the third room, we can tell people are
getting comfortable with the whole setup.
Lying flat on a wooden platform in the middle of the room is Warhol’s huge Dance Diagram(2): Fox Trot – The Double Twinkle-Man (1962).
On each side of this work of art, men and women, young and old, are trying to follow the dance steps and keep up with the beat of I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.
It’s just like New Year’s Eve at my aunt Bertha’s.
In the fourth room, what fascinates me most are two
experimental films projected directly on the walls.
On the front wall, there’s Empire — silent film, black and white — which features nothing else but one continuous shot of New York’s Empire State Building for eight hours and five minutes.
Warhol filmed it from early evening, on July 25, 1964, to almost 3 am the next day, from the 42nd floor of the Time Life Building. He even lengthened Empire’s running time by projecting the film at a speed of sixteen frames per second, slower than its shooting speed of twenty-four frames per second, in order to make the progression to darkness almost imperceptible.
With Empire, Warhol wanted to “see time go by.”
Here’s a 10-minute clip. What I saw at the museum wasn’t this dark, so I must have caught the early evening segment.
On the back wall, you have Sleep. This silent, black and white film (16 mm), was shot on Memorial Day weekend in 1963, in the apartment of poet John Giorno, Andy Warhol’s lover at the time.
The movie stars Giorno — sleeping — for 5 hours and 21 minutes.
What I see when I stop to stare is a lower back, a naked rump, and half a thigh — quite a view considering the height and width of the projected image.
I don’t stare too long because hey… big butt sleeping.
Now comes the part of the exhibit where
everyone forgets about museum etiquette.
Reproduced in a cramped dimly lit room with mirror-covered walls is the installation Warhol created in 1966 at the Leo Castelli Gallery. Entitled Silver Clouds, it consists of dozens of large helium-filled balloons dancing in the air.
Sitting on the floor with other curious folk, I observe as people enter the room and turn crazy the moment they see the shiny objects floating over their heads. They start to jump and grab and punch the silver clouds, and eventually the scene becomes a bit too volleyball-ish so I stand up and leave.
Moving on, I walk through a short corridor where I listen to the one and only recording done by The Druds — a short-lived musical group Andy belonged to back in 1963. No comment.
I pass by the Brillo Boxes (two long rows, twenty boxes in all — impressive) on my way to a quaint little alcove at the back of the room where I get to dump my tired body on a kitschy cushy velvet sofa.
For an hour or so, I watch a selection of short films without even bothering to write down the titles. One of them takes place at a party: a cute blond guy dances out of control while another cute guy drips candle wax on his friend’s hairless chest.
All this time, I can’t make out what the actors are saying because music is blaring from the Brillo Box room. I don’t mind, though, as I much prefer the sound of the Stones’ Satisfaction and Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone.
Next station: the album covers.
Warhol designed his first in 1949 for the album A Program of Mexican Music, and kept designing them till he died, in 1987. The bananas pictured above are three unused stickers for The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) record cover.
All in all, Warhol produced a total of 50 album covers including, in 1971, the Grammy-nominated Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers sleeve which had a genuine zipper.
My attention drifts to the writings on the walls, quotes taken from different periods in Warhol’s life. Here are a few I managed to jot down before my pen ran out of ink:
“I had this routine of painting with rock and roll,
blasting the same song, a 45 rpm,
over and over
all day long.”
“The Tina Turner concert was great.
I thought she was copying Mick Jagger
but then somebody told me
she taught him how to dance.”
“Some company recently was interested
in buying my aura.”
“I believe media is art.”
“Publicity is like eating peanuts.
Once you start, you can’t stop.”
“Punk has always existed.
Callas was terribly punk.”
I could go on and on, the exhibit holds 640 works and objects — paintings, silkscreens, photographs, films, videos, wigs… But I’ll conclude here by saying WARHOL LIVE is a darn good trip to take. That’s why I’ll definitely be going back to further enjoy the last part of the exhibit = the wild nights at Studio 54.
Before leaving the museum, I stopped by the boutique and ended up buying the official poster with Liza Minelli’s portrait ($9.95 – also available with Prince or Debbie Harry) and 10 postcards pretty enough to frame ($1 each).
Cool Artist Date, eh? 🙂
Don’t go thinking they’ll always be this extravagant. As a matter of fact, last week’s Artist Date was a visit to the hardware store. Sorry, no pictures.
WARHOL LIVE is on till January 18, 2009
at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavillion
1380 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal – Québec – Canada