Huge colourful screen prints of Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s Soup tins vs: four fifteen ft tall fibreglass heads made of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Connection? Both could be seen at Dulwich Picture Gallery’s latest private view last Tuesday. Both are glorious exhibits for the summer in South London. However, further links between these two artist’s work perhaps need a little more mulling over….
(left to right) Autumn and Spring 2010
However, it can be done. Both artists employ not just a rich but a dazzling colour scheme and great variety of palette, as well demonstrating distinctive experimentation of particular artistic techniques to a standard of utmost sophistication and imagination. However, even aside from this, Andy Warhol and Philip Haas seem to have found a common ethos when we examine this selection of their work placed in the same summer exhibition. As Ian Dejardin, director of the Picture Gallery confirms, both Haas and Warhol are taking something imagery and making it into something else: iconic.
In the case of Haas, the New York artist looks back to the work of 16th century Mannerist painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo‘s style, in particular his paintings of ‘The Four Seasons’ c. 1572, each of which demonstrates a head in profile made up of the plants, foliage and crop belonging to the particular season. Haas has transformed this already spectacular vision into something enlarged on a huge scale and, even more importantly, made it 3-dimensional. One could only imagine previously what it was like to walk around the collar of Summer‘s neck, or wonder what was on the other side of the snail perched on the crest of Autumn‘s head. Haas brings a new level to Arcimboldo’s weird and wonderful creations, we as a modern audience are given layers of allegorical imagery, palpable solidity; we think of Ovid, metamorphosis, Surrealism (Dali saw Arcimboldo as a ‘kindred spirit’) and now science fiction and adventure films like Lord of the Rings (Winter most definitely looks like an Ent). Italian Mannerism is brought into 2012, and in Dulwich of all places…
The same can be said of Warhol, arguably one of the most significant and influential artists of the second half of the twentieth century. He chose images of noticeable people, objects and products which worked to successfully be re-produced on a grand scale through screen printing across canvas. Beginning his career working in commercial art, Warhol had true business acumen but also incomparable instincts with colour, scale and choice of image. By transforming Art into something that could be a brand, he subverted every cliche of ‘the great artist’, and his work has succeeded in immortalising the images he has captured.
Muhammad Ali c. 1978
We have for example, a cluster of prints depicting Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight champion of the sixties and seventies. Bold, strong and impressive, the boxer stares challengingly at his audience in the bottom right print, chin confidently resting on one massive fist. However, the other three show what could be depicted as a different impression of ‘The Greatest’- in two Ali looks away from the viewer, head bowed in a defeated pose, and the other shows his nipple- a weaker angle of the magnificent fighting-machine body. Warhol tells a story here, even if it is one that is subjective and manipulative: it’s captured in colour so bright and lines so strong that we believe it.
Please note as well some of Warhol’s comparatively under-appreciated still lifes, including glittery grapes (!!) where the artist made ample use of his supply of DD- ‘Diamond Dust’. They’re just so gorgeous!
More info at http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/
Both exhibitions continue until 16th September