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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the art category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

129 Die In Jet

This morning I wrote a review for The Herald of Warhol: A Celebration of Life… And Death, the big blockbuster show at this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival.

Soup Cans

It was a slightly tricky piece to write, because the show shoots itself in the foot, to great effect. As the subtitle suggests, its premise is that you can split Warhol’s work in two - life on one side, death on the other - which is hardly a new idea, and, before seeing this show, one I pretty much agreed with. But after seeing it I’m inclined to think that almost all of Warhol’s work, even the most obviously jolly stuff, is more about death than anything else.

Admittedly, this might be down to the fact that I’m always inclined to kick against didactically curated shows, but seeing the relentlessly morbid work - the skull paintings, the death and disaster series, the Marylins and Jackies, most of the self-portraits - alongside cheery Brillo boxes, Coke bottles, soup cans and celebrity portraits really does cast the latter lot in a new light.

In this context, the portraits become attempts to preserve the living, not celebrations of beauty/celebrity, and the standard reading of work like the Brillo boxes as, in part, being celebrations of egalitarian American sameness (“All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good”) collapses, and they begin to look something like (cue spooky music!) grave goods, with Warhol’s post-Duchamp handmade readymades less a studied removal of the artist’s presence in the work and more an artistic suicide. Okay, so I’m going a wee bit far there, but that possibility will at least colour the way I think about Warhol from now on.

Anyway, it’s a really great show, chock-a-block with work that’s never been shown in Europe before, brilliantly installed (especially when it comes to the recreation of installations), and I very much enjoyed the way that its curatorial conceit pushed me away and pulled me back in, prompting a bit of a re-evaluation of an artist I thought I had all worked out years ago.

I’ll be doing meandering reviewlets like this for most of the shows at the EAF this month. Next up: Alex Hartley at Fruitmarket.

Posted at 2pm on 09/08/07 by Jack Mottram to the art category.
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