At the Cantor: ‘Warhol Unframed’ dismantles pop image of pop legend

March 5, 2017, 7:45 p.m.

“You know what that is?” a stranger at the gallery cautiously nudges, pointing at what appears to be functionless lines of reddish glitter.

We both stand in confusion and in laughter, trying to make something of the rather bizarre parting between the lips. The man then nervously chuckles. “It’s the gap between her teeth — look, there’s a photo.” The exchange is colloquial and, in the opinions of some, unsophisticated. But the rawness of the conversation has never been so appropriate with the art surrounding it.

The Cantor sports a new corner, “Warhol Unframed,” a small cubicle that ambitiously seeks to expose a new part of Warhol unseen to the public and the academic world. The exhibit features four large pieces done in Warhol’s signature style: pop-art portraitures on lithographs and screenprints including the familiar “Mao Tse-Tung” (1972) and the less familiar but equally remarkable “Mammy” (1981).

The highlight of the curation, however, are multiple negative film roll prints featuring Warhol’s photography of the 1970s and the 1980s. Each of these photographs are presented in unique ways: some as wallet-sized prints, others as sizable collages. The snaps are from wherever — “discos, wrestling matches, dinner parties and flea markets” — and feature whomever — “friends, boyfriends and celebrities, collectors, employees and sundry passerby.”

As put in the exhibit’s headliner, “Warhol Unframed” is unfiltered and unprocessed, handing its viewers a humanized Warhol.

A particularly eye-catching part of the exhibit is two machine-stitched collages of black-and-white photo prints. The two are suggestively titled “Our Lady of Perpetual Help Sign” and “Unidentified Model” (both sewn posthumously in 2014). The former is composed of four prints of a photo of a building, and the latter of a male model.

Each photo is neatly threaded to the next, and the white strings remain untrimmed and unknotted. As if to supplement their crude presentation, both collages are framed but not glazed. Had a viewer been so willing, they could pull upon the thread and potentially dismantle the piece. The vicarious and unguarded state of these collages looks makeshift, but provides a new perspective into the celebrated artist. Other copy sheets are no more adorned: The negative 35mms are wildly marked up in unapologetic red scribbles.

It is rare to see any Warhol piece so bare and so crude; the artist holds a position almost divine in the art world.

Warhol discussion is rarely about the work of art so much as it is about the artist behind the art. “Warhol Unframed,” however, seeks to bring the artist down from his holy temple and into the common conversation of simple aesthetic enjoyment and artistic learning. Befitting its theme, “Unframed,” the exhibit welcomes both Warhol experts and art illiterates to enjoy art with the raw and innate reactions the pieces both embody and evoke.

“Warhol Unframed” runs through May 1, 2017 at the Cantor Arts Center.


Contact Eva Hong at heejhong ‘at’

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