ANDY WARHOL Photographs & Screen Tests

Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to present a selection of photographs from the 1970s and 1980s as well as Screen Tests by the Pop artist Andy Warhol. 25 years after his death, Andy Warhol (1928 Pittsburgh – 1987 New York) is more famous than ever; this makes it all the more surprising to explore his oeuvre of little known, unique photographic prints. Indeed photography has a distinct position within the artist’s work, as all his emblematic paintings are based on photographic material.

Warhol was extremely productive as a photographer. Especially in the 1970s and 1980s a significant body of gelatin silver prints was created, taken with a variety of compact automatic- and instant cameras. Easy to handle, they offered the opportunity to capture a candid picture at any given time or place. 
The resulting photographs chronicle the general public life as well as the artist’s personal obsessions and depict the USA as a country of contradictions.

The medium of photography particularly reflects Warhol’s radical aesthetics, working only with black and white film and referencing the omnipresent images of mass media. His photographs draw on the democratic equality of subjects in his paintings, emphasizing Warhol’s pronounced attention to current events and his attempt to dissolve the border between art and commercialism. They feature recurring subjects such as newspaper boxes, displays in shop windows, curiosities, stereotypical images, but also the reality of social differences and poverty. Those scenes of everyday life represent the „American Way of Life“, which in Warhol’s photographs culminates to a distinct iconography and an eloquent portrayal of America. The spontaneous snapshot aesthetic contrasts with austere photographs that almost seem arranged. Photographing arrangements of furniture, fruits, vegetables or tableware apparently inspired the artist to experiment with composition and advance towards abstraction, which is a testament to his aesthetic and stylistic interest in the medium itself. Andy Warhol’s photographs represent their own art form within his work, inhabited by an essential ambiguity.

A selection of twelve Screen Tests complements the current exhibition of Warhol’s filmic and photographic work. Originally, so-called screen tests are test takes of actors, which the artist developed into his very own and specific form of experimental films. The subjects of these short films are portraits of his staff members, friends and visitors at the Factory, among them the musicians Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, the actors Dennis Hopper and Baby Jane Holzer, the artists Marcel Duchamp and Paul Thek, and many more. Oscillating between the credibility and the mediated nature of an individual “image“, these cinematic portraits became fascinating documents of contemporary history, of important figures of public life, of the media, and the cultural scene.

Andy Warhol had a conceptual approach to the shooting: the model sat on a chair in front of a canvas, shot in close-up in one single take, the camera remaining immobile throughout. While the camera was running, Warhol left the room and the protagonists were alone. The shooting generally lasted only three minutes, corresponding to the running time of one 16mm film reel. From 1964 to 1966 the majority of the almost five hundred Screen Tests were created in Warhol’s Silver Factory in New York. These vivid and individual portraits are not only intended as psychological studies, but also reflect the cultural life in New York in the 1960s. Reminiscent of surveillance films, the Screen Tests strike the viewer today because of their special relation of artist, camera, and viewer. At the same time, these short films characterize Andy Warhol’s ambivalent relationship with the media: attracted by the glamorous world of Hollywood movie stars, the artist parodies and ironizes these celebrities through his own castings and focuses on the arranged, mediated image, created by his „Factory stars“ themselves.

Following his experience with the Screen Tests, film became one of Warhol’s great passions, resulting in various works, as for example Lonesome Cowboys, Eat, Flesh for Frankenstein/Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Empire. Some of the Screen Tests were also incorporated in the films Thirteen most beautiful girls (1964) and Thirteen most beautiful boys (1965).

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