SPACE Exhibit Shows Pop Art's Alive and Well

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 16, 2009 | Go to article overview
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SPACE Exhibit Shows Pop Art's Alive and Well

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

During his lifetime, and even after, pop artist Andy Warhol (1928- 87) was plagued by fake copies of his work.

Onetime studio assistant Gerard Malanga, who helped create many of Warhol's most famous silk-screen paintings, has admitted to making unauthorized Warhol works while the artist was alive, and after his death. The works were so similar that even artist Julian Schnabel bought one thinking it was the real deal. And most collectors of Warhol's work are well aware of the European edition of Marilyn prints signed "Sunday B. Morning," which also are unauthorized.

The idea that a fake could easily pass as the real thing is now very much a tenet of pop culture as we know it. And many pop artists today use the concept of fake, or faking it, in their work, either directly or indirectly, either as spoof, or as a vehicle to get across a particular message.

Take for example the current exhibit at SPACE, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's massive Downtown gallery. Titled "Smoke & Mirrors," its underlying theme is just that -- the concept of the fake, or faking it.

"The exhibition began with the idea of including work by artists who've tweaked their personas a bit in order to effect how their work is perceived," says the show's organizer Jesse Hulcher. "This would include work by artists who assume aliases and pseudonyms and work by artists who take on a contrived aesthetic, which could mean that they display an aesthetic which is below their skill-set in order to give certain meaning to the work."

To illustrate the point, Hulcher says that "a crayon drawing of a house could take on new meaning if you discover that it's been drawn by a 30-year-old as opposed to a 6-year-old."

Warhol himself likely would have approved of JD Walsh's pop-art combinations in which, like Warhol's Brillo boxes, he mixes oversized screenprint versions of things like a Dentyne carton and J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" paperback.

"For the most part, I suppose, the exhibition really calls for viewers to take a closer look at what these artists are doing," Hulcher says, "encouraging a deeper appreciation for artists whose work may not be exactly what it seems upon first glance."

Other works are less noticeably fake, as in Guthrie Lonergan's "Floor Warp 2," which appears as if an endless walk on wood-plank flooring, but in reality it's the same image extended a few feet per second.

Then there's Thad Kellstadt's installation "Darkness, Imprisoning Me," which appears to replicate a contemporary teenager's lair.

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SPACE Exhibit Shows Pop Art's Alive and Well


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