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Warhol at Tate Modern

Farouk Campbell

Images and sculptures mapping the life and creative output of artist Andy Warhol are presented in a major retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern.

This vast collection of paintings, films, photographs and sculptures shows Andy Warhol going beyond his fifteen minutes of fame and entering the canon of art history.

Throwing mass culture at art or rather embracing mass culture and mechanised
techniques of artistic creation Warhol controversially abandoned the brush
in favour of screen process reproduction. While Warhol described his works
as "machine like" each image created, even in repeat cascade, is unique and
individual. Slated for just having one idea, repeating himself, and dubbed
as not really an artist by his earlier critics because he did not paint,
Warhol's images stretches beyond these surface interpretations and reveal
surprising innovations and cross-media utilisation.

Warhol's distinctive style draws material and inspiration from popular
culture. Using images from adverts, magazines, comic books and newspapers
in his works he re-directed the methodology of art practice and the
conventions of art, drawing heavily from the immediacy and impact of the
photographic image.

The large images of Elvis, Marilyn and others redefine yet continue the
process of portraiture and iconography. Warhol doe the same with his own
version of history painting. The essential aesthetics are still there but
with a different medium. The continued intertextual borrowing from the
world of advertising challenged the conventions of what could and could not
be represented in art. Warhol's pictures elevate mundane everyday objects
into the "heroic".

Warhol's creations further redefine the value ascribed to objects. The
sinister image of the electric chair from Sing Sing Prison coated in pastel
shades restructure its meaning and ways of perceiving it and establishes
Warhol as a supreme colourist. His pictures of the Mona Lisa and Last Supper recycles the language of art and like advertising re-invents itself.

The established view of Warhol as the doyen of Pop Art responsible for
numerous innovations in this field is never in dispute. What this
exhibition pinpoints is his celebrity, creativity and remarkable way of
viewing. His works are significant as they chronicle the second half of the
20th century. From race riots to consumerism they stand as a document of
American culture.

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