Sunday, August 06, 2006


It has often been said that there is a thin line between madness and genius.(most interestingly enough, when I first typed this, I typed "a think line")

It has also often been said that art means something different to everyone.

Andy Warhol exemplified both these statements. Whether he was indeed a madman or genius stands to be proven -- of course he had some of his freaky quirks and phobias, we all know that -- but he was CREATIVE. And he defined art in a very different and very special way.

I used to view Warhol's work as that of a nutjob. Couldn't I copy a Brillo box or soup can, depict it in several colors and stick it on a canvas? But he was so much more than I discovered not all so long ago on an evening at the Art Gallery of Toronto, together with some friends.

It wasn't that I was overly anxious to see this special exhibit, it wasn't that I would've done anything to garner tickets, but the opportunity came along, and I grabbed it. More than anything, it was an evening that was giving me back a bit of my youth.

I used to go fairly frequently to local, smaller galleries and to the larger Art Gallery of Ontario when I was younger, when I was single. There were always special shows to see, gifts to buy at the gift shops and friends to share the experience with. But in all the years I've been married, I don't recall going back to the gallery -- there was never the time, nobody thought of it, nobody relished trekking downtown by subway any longer when we were all married and living way out in the suburbs.

So getting together with three friends for this outing was special. And seeing Warhol's show was special.

He was a most interesting/unusual person, with a bizarre outlook on the world, which translated into his "masterpieces". The particular special exhibit now in Toronto is on loan from the Walker Center in Minneapolis and it was guest-curated by Canadian film director David Cronenberg.

This exhibition brings together more than 20 of the greatest paintings created by Andy Warhol, the icon of Pop Art.

In 1962, Warhol began using the silkscreen technique to make paintings - many of which presented serial images of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley. Also in the early 1960s, Warhol created paintings of disturbing disaster imagery, depicting graphic car crashes, suicides and the unremitting motif of an electric chair. The polarity within Warhol's imagination that pairs celebrity with tragedy forms the focus of this exhibition, which showcases several of the artist's rarely-seen early masterworks and films.

We are each individual -- in our behavior, in our thinking. Andy certainly was that, and it is depicted in his weird (to some, "wonderful") films; one of them was like a test screen but without talking. The subjects just stood before the camera doing what they'd normally be doing. It was like a 1960s version of a web cam. There was a film of Rock Hudson sleeping, and the camera was on him all the time -- this wasn't footage screened for a sleep disorders clinic, this was simply Rock Hudson in lullaby-land, and Andy thought it would be cool to film.

The voyeur in Andy comes through loud and clear in several of the very sexual films that were playing, and in essence, he makes all his viewers become voyeurs, as well.

It is worth Googling Warhol and his life. It is worth viewing an exhibit of his if it comes to your neck of the woods.

Maybe it was even worth it to paint a soup can or two...or three...or four...