Exhibit Connects Warhol, Australian Artists

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Exhibit Connects Warhol, Australian Artists


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


On the tail end of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Australia Festival, we are left with a most curious exhibition in the form of "Andy & Oz: Parallel Visions," which presents the work of nine prominent Australian artists seemingly influenced by the work of Andy Warhol.

Organized by Deborah Hart, senior curator of Australian Painting and Sculpture after 1920 at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and The Warhol's director Thomas Sokolowski, the exhibition is one of comparison and compromise.

Comparison, because one can't help but draw parallels, and compromise because those parallels are a bit too good to be true.

The Andy Warhol Museum has long been guilty of trying to shoehorn Andy Warhol's (1928 -- 87) work into the context of the much larger contemporary -- as in present day -- art canon, usually to the point of witlessness. But this time, the shoe actually fits, and some might say a little too snugly. As in the works of Tim Horn whose oversized shoe sculpture, "Glass slipper (Ugly Blister)" is beyond appropriately displayed here among a smattering of Warhol's famous shoe illustrations and a gold shoe sculpture.

But wait, there's more. There are works like Xiao Xian Liu's triptych "Reincarnation - Mao, Buddha and I" in which an obvious play on Warhol's famous Mao paintings is somewhat intriguing by way of three portraits being made up of tiny versions of the same portrait, but all the more redundantly Warhol, both literally and figuratively.

The same can be said of Christian Thompson's larger-than-life self portrait, which is likely to stop who that step off of the elevator. Not only because of its close proximity, but because in it, Thompson is dressed as Andy Warhol, wearing a shocking synthetic wig and spitting a stream of water. Even though the piece is dated 2004, it is hard to believe that it was, like the rest of the pieces on view, "drawn predominantly from the National Gallery of Australia's collection" as the exhibition statement announces. It so obviously plays up to the curator's whims that it's difficult not to think of it as an attempt to suck up to the curators by the artist, who happens to be the youngest in the show.

Thompson also has work on display concurrently at "Workin' Down Under" at Wood Street Galleries, Downtown. Better to go there to get a full understanding of this artist's particular forte. The remaining five works by Thompson on display here, from his Emotional Striptease series, just don't do him justice.

The same can be said of Tracey Moffat, who also shows works at Wood Street. Though, to her credit, her photographs in this exhibition save her -- barely -- from eternal condemnation as a Cindy Sherman wannabe. …

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