Here is the review for “Andy Warhol: Self Portraits (Fright Wigs)”, on view now at Skarstedt Gallery until April 22, 2017.
Skarstedt is known for its stunning and improbable balance between a homey and austere atmosphere. The herringbone wood floors of its Upper East Side space suggest an air of age, provenance; luxury, but the essential wall space a complete other; one of stern certainty. It’s located on a prime block, between 5th and Madison, still a haven for art lovers, with the MET Museum not far away. This is a space Andy Warhol would have surely visited. Picasso certainly did, as today’s Skarstedt was once his dealer’s space. But the Upper East Side has changed since Warhol’s time. It’s a posh atmosphere through and through, but was once an artist’s haven of precarious arrangement, existing simultaneously as the selling space for dealers and a few avenues over, the space for creation. To find these particular works in this special location is nothing short of magical.
To assemble “Andy Warhol: Self Portraits (Fright Wigs)”, Skarstedt worked to procure the works from private collections, a daunting task in its own right further complicated as it is unknown how many of the self portraits actually exist. Available in a few scales, including the 80″ x 80″ presented here (five works in total), even the Warhol Foundation cannot confidently suggest an estimate of total works executed. The works pop up at various times in various colors and conditions, puncturing a hole in the prevailing art-world arrangement known as “editions” and introduce a new variable in assigning value: the uncertainty of quantity. As more are found, the exclusivity paradoxically increases, the idea that there are so many that everyone could have one is ruled out, but there are more to be found compels people to keep looking, and keep the work on their mind.
So then, viewers of the this effort are left with five stellar, proven examples of an ultimately tragic and conclusive commission: Warhol’s only foray into self-portraiture, the Fright Wigs. In shocking colors like pink, green, and blue, each paired with a cold black screening, a dark, electric energy courses through these works. Hairs literally stand on end as Warhol stares intently into the viewer’s eye, his expression focused and unflinching, his face gaunt and skeletal.
The works themselves are not perfect, but they are certainly not rushed. Take a moment to really study each work for their own individual curiosities, an exposed green corner, pink peeking out on the side of a canvas. Some other indications of a paced execution include a repeatedly well-executed silk-screening technique, suggesting a sensitivity to the subject (now, celebrity after celebrity, a turn towards self). It’s a reflection, perhaps, of Warhol’s total satisfaction with the project he’d embarked on and the need for self-celebration. Or, it’s a reflection of his uncertainty and true attitude toward celebrity: a staunch disapproval.
The most vibrant theorists might posit that Warhol hated everyone he ever documented, whether paint or Polaroid. He had such a rage toward them he rushed through works, to respond to them in a way they’re responded to him: hurried, a friend in name only, not by any other measure. Apply the thinking to self-portraiture and the care here is obvious, even though the mechanism of execution remains consistent, regardless of subject: he spends more time exacting proportions, calculating the matrix; hitting the right chromatic note to result in a vibrant and ultimately unsettling series, haunted by the untimely death of Warhol only a year after their completion.
Andy Warhol: Self Portraits (Fright Wigs) is on view at SKARSTEDT From February 23 – April 22, 2017
20 EAST 79TH STREET
NY, NY, 10075