Ive never met a person I couldnt call a beauty.Andy Warhol
From 1970 to 1987 Andy Warhol took scores of Polaroid and black-and-white photographs, the vast majority of which were never seen by the public. These images often served as the basis for his commissioned portraits, silk-screen paintings, drawings, and prints. In 2007, to commemorate its twentieth anniversary, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts launched the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program. Designed to give a broad public greater access to Warhols photographs, the program donated over 28,500 of Warhols original Polaroids and gelatin silver prints to more than 180 college and university museums and galleries across the country. Each institution received a curated selection of over one hundred Polaroids and fifty black-and-white prints.
This January BAM/PFA is proud to present selected Polaroids drawn from this extraordinary gift of the Warhol Foundation to the museum. The group reveals that superstars were not the only figures that Warhol photographed with his Polaroid Big Shot, the distinct plastic camera he used for the majority of his sittings. Over half of those who sat for him were little known or remain unidentified.
The number of images he took at each session varied as greatly as the figures he photographed. Repetition, a recurring motif in Warhols paintings, plays both a conceptual and practical role in his photography. By making several Polaroids, he had more material from which to work. By shooting at length, more about the sitter was exposed. Seen all together, the Polaroids destabilize the iconic status that a Warhol image assumes when displayed singly. On its own, a Polaroid image is fully identified with the artwork that ultimately grew out of it; the face depicted becomes a kind of signifier for larger cultural concepts of beauty, power, and worth.
Tables of Content displays all thirteen boxes and their contents. Warner has selected and arranged the letters, drawings, photocopies, and found objects like t-shirts, tennis balls, and random beach trashthe material of Johnsons arton an assembly of thirteen tables and surrounding gallery walls. Johnson annotated many of these things with personal codes, puns, and dark, irreverent jokes. Johnsons workcollages, correspondence art, and performance eventsremains mysterious and a bit hard to pin down. But his influences are obvious and surface repeatedly, among them Andy Warhol, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Elvis Presley. His collage approach was diaristic, a stream-of-consciousness flow through the matter and memory of everyday life, shifting from one topic to another, across all variety of things. Johnson once remarked, My work is like driving a car. Im always shifting gears. Tables of Content will particularly resonate with Berkeley audiences who viewed the recent exhibition Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage.
Free BAM/PFA Members UC Berkeley students, faculty, staff, and retirees Children (12 & under), $10 Adults (18-64), $7 Non-UC Berkeley students Senior citizens (65 & over) Disabled persons Young adults (13-17)