M WOODS is pleased to announce Andy Warhol: Contact, an exhibition of groundbreaking film, photography, and interactive installations by one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists. Curated by M WOODS Director Presca Ahn, it is the first in a series of major solo exhibitions planned at the museum over the next three years.
The first exhibition in China to focus on the experimental, mechanically produced areas of Warhol's practice, Andy Warhol: Contact features photographs, installations, and films that broke the boundaries of contemporary art when they were first made, and still compel viewers today with their extraordinary immediacy. Made by Warhol using cameras and other machines, the works illuminate an overlooked theme in Warhol's famed body of work: human evanescence in the face of time. From his minimalist films of the 1960s to his ephemeral installations to his instant film portraits on Polaroid, these works' technical means of production enable distinctly Warholian explorations of time in relation to both subject and artist.
The works in Andy Warhol: Contact reflect dialectics that animated Warhol's wider career: between the personal and impersonal, fame and anonymity, slowed-down time and the fleeting instant, remoteness and contact. “In all these works, Warhol minimized the touch of the artist’s hand by using mechanical production and a standardized or repetitive format,” said Ahn. “Despite this, many of them radiate a very human, personal quality, and they have a pathos or an energy that transcends the technical or automatic character of the medium. This tension is what makes the works so arresting, even now.”
The exhibition features two bodies of work in which Warhol redefined the notion of portraiture: the silent film portraits from the 1960s that he collectively called the “Screen Tests,” and his portraits shot on Polaroid film throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. Taking their name from the short films typically made of actors auditioning for film roles, the Screen Tests portray a wide range of artists, celebrities, and Factory regulars such as Marcel Duchamp, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and Edie Sedgwick. With the Polaroids, Warhol enacted an obsessive, diaristic documentation of himself and those in his circle, capturing them in time with the most instantaneous medium then available. Having brought new heights of instantaneousness to the genre of portraiture when they were created, the Screen Tests and Polaroids now also serve as documents of the past, whether their subjects are famous or obscure, still living or now dead.
A highlight of the show is an installation of Warhol’s Silver Clouds, glimmering pillow-like shapes that float gently through the exhibition space. When the work was first shown at New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery in 1966, viewers were free to touch and move among the Clouds, making the work one of the earliest examples of an immersive, interactive art installation. Similarly tactile and encompassing are Warhol’s famed screenprinted wallpapers, of which two examples will be on view: Cow (1966) and Self-Portrait (1978). Refabricated every time they are shown, these playful works are disposable, ephemeral environments; as such, they may be resurrected continually, having long outlived the artist himself, and touch ever more new audiences. Ahn noted, "Warhol's radical use of the technologies at his disposal anticipated many defining aspects of today's art world: the widespread use of social media, the 'selfie' photo, immersive art installations, and– perhaps most of all– the idea of the artist as a brand."
M WOODS will also screen Warhol’s radical underground film Kiss (1963), which shows multiple couples, one after the other, kissing for minutes on end. Like other Warhol films of this period such as Sleep, Eat, and Empire, Kiss is an experiment in minimalist, durational cinema. Its serial format and intrusive framing contrast starkly with the intimacy of the acts portrayed; presented without context or narrative, the “actors” in Kiss are the opposite of romantic film stars. Rejecting the cinematic conventions of personality-driven characters and narrative-driven time, Kiss forces a cold, anthropological contemplation of this classic expression of human passion, questioning what it means truly to make contact.