Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Run Run Run

What to do on an awful rainy day in San Francisco? Skychick and I decided to hit the de Young Museum and take in their current Warhol Live exhibition. As the exhibition's website says:

Over the course of his meteoric career, Andy Warhol used the medium of music to transform himself from fan, to record album designer, to producer, to celebrity night-clubber, to “rock star.” Warhol Live, at the de Young from February 14 to May 17, 2009, presents the first comprehensive exploration of Andy Warhol’s work as seen through the lens of music. This exhibition brings together a wide variety of works depicting pop music royalty, including Elvis Presley, the Velvet Underground, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Liza Minnelli, Grace Jones, Deborah Harry of Blondie, and Michael Jackson. Major Warhol silkscreen paintings, films and sound recordings, album covers, illustrations, and photographs inspired by music and the performing arts will provide a visual and aural score to Warhol’s extraordinary work and life.

Of course, I can't deny Warhol's place in Pop Culture history, but I've always been indifferent about him as an artist... and while certain aspects of his world definitely inspired me in my Salad Days (specifically The Velvet Underground), I've never held his work up as godhead... Campbell's Soup Cans? Yawn. To be honest, I only wanted to get out of the house and the de Young's Free Admission Tuesday was the perfect thing to do as the rain poured down outside.

At first I was bemused watching hipsters, senior citizens, and tourists gawk at items such as old album covers behind glass (a concept that still befuddles me, since I have alot of those same vinyl albums at Casa de Umlaut..)... Some of the album covers were designed by Warhol (such as the iconic The Velvet Underground & Nico) while others were simply from his collection; evidently Warhol was an opera fanatic.. so I learned something new very early in the exhibition.

I was also bemused by the guy who looked like Andy Warhol.. from the unkempt bleached blonde hair.. to the thick rimmed glasses.. to his clothes... to his affected mannerisms as he "studied" each item in the exhibition.. Oh man, I had a sense of deja vu back to a Sci-Fi convention; I've never seen anyone at a museum dressed as an artist. Koo-koo for Coco Puffs...

However, my indifference changed when we entered the area devoted to The Factory and The Velvet Underground. Now this was COOL stuff: casual photos from parties at The Factory featuring the likes of Bob Dylan, Edie Sedgwick, and other iconic people from that scene. Some of the many films that Warhol shot in The Factory were shown in an alcove.. and next to the alcove were The Velvet Underground artifacts... which set bells off in my Music Geek head.

I was rather overwhelmed by this space... My inner Music Geek went postal over the poster from a Velvet's show at The Fillmore in 1969... and the side-by-side video screens showing each band members' "screen test" for Warhol was as close to a time machine as you can get. WOW.. Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Moe Tucker, Lou Reed, and Nico close up, each captured on a 4 minute loop of black & white 8mm film in 1969... Their faces caught in time... eyes blinking.. expressions.. I was completely mesmerized... and of course Nico was the most compelling since I couldn't help thinking how 19 years after that footage she was lying unconscious on a street in Spain next to her bike... but I can be morbid that way.... Sorry.

After this part of the exhibition, visitors were directed through a black curtain and entered a large darkened space... big pillows were placed on a platform / bench in the middle of the floor... black & white footage of the Velvet's projected on all of the walls... Velvet's music playing on a surround sound stereo... MAGIC... and against one wall were Sterling Morrison's Strat and Lou's Reed's Gretsch from those days. DOH!!!

Pic by Umlaut

This was my favorite part of the exhibition by far; I haven't listened to The Velvet Underground in awhile and I could feel my obsession with them coming back.. and as 'All Tomorrow's Parties' played Skychick asked what song it was.. and then commented "It sounds like Jesus & Mary Chain.." Bingo, babe! On the flip side, I couldn't help but overhear a pair of young de Young security guards complaining about the music. HAHA... That 21st Century Music you listen to is gutless, kids!

Then came the area devoted to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones... Love You Live concept art... Warhol's backstage pass from a '75 Stones NYC show.. live video footage of The Stones from that era. The space did a good job of putting Warhol in the context of The Stones, which I didn't really give a shit about before... which made me appreciate him.. which surprised me... because I find Campbell's Soup Cans overrated. I'd also forgotten that Warhol started Interview magazine... and I had a flashback to unpacking new issues of that publication back in the 80's during my time as the magazine buyer for bookstores.. Time travel is possible.

Anyway, long afternoon short, it was nice to have my jaded mind engaged by something that I was expecting to be indifferent about.. Note to self: DON'T BE SO JADED! As I'm typing this I'm listening to the fantastic The Velvet Underground - Bootleg Series Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes that features live recordings done in San Francisco in November and December 1969. The 8+ minute version of 'What Goes On' is blowing my mind all over again... for the first time.

"What goes on in your mind? I think that I am upside down.."

Andy Warhol with The Velvet Underground - 1967