Honor Fraser Gallery presents its second Andy Warhol exhibition, this time focusing on his drawings and paintings of toy robots and space ships.
Throughout art history artists have created work incorporating toys, games, and play. The Surrealists famously invented the exquisite corpse, a game that liberated image making from the constraints of rational and discursive order, and resulted in an unexpected drawing. Games and play allow participants to perceive the world with new eyes, and most importantly, position established hierarchies at risk. The excitement exists in taking turns at playing different roles – the privileged or the underdog, the policeman or the robber – and foreseeing how events will unfold. If Surrealist games liberated the process of image making for artists, games provide a method for addressing conflict in a more manageable framework, that of popular culture. At play in this exhibition are Warhol’s positive assessments of popular culture and his contributions to moments of hierarchical reversals of power.
Despite the small scale of the drawings and paintings in this exhibition, the work captures the grandiosity of the Warholian Pop Art strategies that transformed the art world from the late 1950s on, like no other series of works. These strategies include consumerism, appropriation, seriality, and abstraction. The work in the exhibition is from a series first exhibited in the 1980s by Bruno Bischofberger, a Swiss art dealer, and was intended to be hung low; a protest against the typical installation height. Warhol and Bischofberger selected a total of sixteen images for the series. The images do not reference the actual toys but the images printed on their packages, which is consistent with Warhol’s interest in consumer culture, commodities, and the container, rather than the contained. The exhaustive repetition of the image, typical of Warhol as well, attests to his fascination with the proliferation of images in popular culture. His signature silkscreen style, where the overlaid fields of color do not match the line drawing, points towards Warhol’s interest in abstraction. However, these drawings and silkscreens present a unique aspect in the Warhol saga: his unrealistic dream to be a machine, a conglomerate of author-free industrial products, or, to have a proxy robot that looked like him and would be his replacement when needed. These observations shed new light on the series, and in particular, to the somewhat anthropomorphic robot works.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication, Andy Warhol: Robots & Space Ships, with an essay by Vincent Fremont.