New York

Andy Warhol

Leo Castelli Gallery

An important classified ad in a recent issue of The Village Voice reads:

X-CHANGE: You feed the factory. Supply the Warhol Works with items negotiable, well-used, or new (Technical equipment, free good dinners, terrific clothes, film, lights and work, what-have-you or what-are-you) ANDY WARHOL will certify your WARHOL WORK with his signature. For appointment call EL 5-9941.

This is the most literal statement to date of Andy Warhol’s Message—that Art and Life are Interchangeable. What happens as a result of this premise, of course, is that neither exists or that one becomes part of the other in a reversible continuum in which no cleavage is possible.

But if Art has ceased to exist for Warhol then certainly there can be no longer any pretense at the creation of “Gallery Art.” Perhaps this is why his present exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery is such an embarrassment. Warhol may have at last become aware of the hypocritical position he has suicidally forced upon himself. It also partly explains why Warhol is at present more interesting as a film-maker and entrepreneur (he has recently opened a discotheque). In both these cases the personal effort is not directed toward the traditional artistic arena, the art gallery.

Leo Castelli, nonetheless, deserves a word of praise for permitting the gross deception of Warhol’s present show even to take place. He has surrendered his gallery, not to the exposure of works of art, but to a two part manifestation. The front exhibition room consists of a mass of heat-sealed, metallic coated polyethylene pillows that have been inflated with helium. Looking like stray works from last month’s Abstract Inflationist Exhibition, they merrily bob about, slowly deflate and glintingly reflect the scene about them. They are visually and haptically engaging.

The rear gallery has been wallpapered in cow’s heads. The cow image has been silk screened, in half-drop repeat, onto a ground of shocking pink and maize. Wallpaper rolls are for sale. With both rooms, Warhol has sought to create environments, or, better still, ambiences. Being more poisonously colored, and not affording the occasional diversion of a balloon bursting, “le tout high-school de New York” crowded, on opening day, into the pill ow chamber rather than the cow room. If Warhol’s message was once that art and life are interchangeable, it now seems to be that art and fashion are the same.

Robert Pincus-Witten