Liz and Marilyn in Toronto

'Let's Make Love' (1960)
‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960)

The TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto is screening a series of movies starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn this month, including almost every major Monroe film from Don’t Bother to Knock to The Misfits. This is a tie-in with a current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, on display until January 24, 2016.

“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro — a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art — Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity. Their shared talent for scandal and reputations as miscreants on set — ‘No company can afford Monroe and Taylor,’ a spokesman for 20th Century Fox stated after Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give — were equalled, for Warhol, by their ability to make the screen shimmer with an ineffable allure. If, as he famously averred, ‘beauty is a sign of intelligence’, no stars were brighter.”

You can read more about Liz, Marilyn and Warhol here.

Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn

modern screen nov56Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn, a new exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum, explores the parallels between Marilyn and Elizabeth Taylor, who both converted to Judaism, and Andy Warhol’s fascination with the cult of celebrity.

As Flavorpill reports, the exhibition (opening on September 25, through to February 7, 2016) is divided into three sections – Celebrity, Conversion, and Myth & Legend.

The New York Observer reveals that Marilyn’s Menorah will be on display, alongside two 1962 paintings by Warhol, ‘Mint Marilyn’ and ‘Blue Liz’, as well as two print portraits of the women, and assorted photographs, letters, and ephemera.

The Last Goddess: Grace Hartigan’s ‘Marilyn’

Grace Hartigan

Grace Hartigan was an American Abstract Expressionist painter of the New York School in the 1950s. One of her most famous works, ‘Marilyn’, was created after the death of MM. In a new biography, Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter, Cathy Curtis reveals that Hartigan’s interest in Marilyn dated back to the summer of 1957, when she spotted her on vacation with husband Arthur Miller in the Hamptons. She also kept a photograph of Marilyn with author Isak Dinesen (taken in 1959), pinned to her wall for inspiration.

'Marilyn' (1962)
‘Marilyn’ (1962)

“Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962 from a barbiturate overdose inspired Marilyn (1962.) Grace floated vivid details in a giddily feminine pink and purple haze; the actress’s gleaming teeth in an open-mouthed smile (from a Life photograph), a wavy blonde lock of hair, a blue eye, white klieg lights, and a gesturing hand emerging from a ruffled sleeve (based on a photograph of a detail from a fifteenth century fresco). Despite the luminous quality of the painting, it has a strangely terrifying quality because of the contrast between the brilliant white arc of Marilyn’s teeth – the only area that seems to push forward into space – and the empty black space inside her mouth.

As a subject for serious art, in an era when popular culture was still held at arm’s length from highbrow culture, Marilyn Monroe was not on a part with Dido and Aeneas. But [May] Tabak had urged Grace not to have any qualms about making a painting about Marilyn. (‘What does abstraction mean if she wasn’t an abstraction?’) At the opening of Grace’s fall exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery, [art critic] Harold Rosenberg told his wife that this was the most interesting piece in the show. Grace may also have gained courage from her mentor’s example. [Willem] De Kooning had led the way with his big-eyed, lipsticked Marilyn Monroe (1954), whose oddly chunky torso echoed the colors of her hair and lips. She could also look to Frank O’Hara, whose poem ‘To the Film Industry in Crisis,’ written the following year, evokes the actress ‘in her little spike heels’ in the 1953 thriller Niagara. In ‘Returning’ (1956), he facetiously quotes the film goddess on being a sex symbol.

In its wistful sensibility – though, of course, not its style – Grace’s version is akin to Audrey Flack‘s glossy Photorealist still lifes Marilyn (Vanitas) and Marilyn (Golden Girl) from the late seventies. Flack viewed the actress as ‘a symbol for love, the need for love, and the pain of never having enough love,’ identifying with her because ‘she never really got enough love from her mother or father.’ This was an ache Grace knew well. She and Flack were also nostalgic about – as Grace put it – a time when people had a choice of gods and goddesses to worship. ‘We don’t have these now,’ Grace said, ‘so we set up all of these popular culture idols, and we invest them with qualities of love and hostility and so forth.'”

Paint company founder Leonard Bocour – who had once been president of an MM fan club – congratulated Grace on the painting, declaring himself ‘President of the Grace Hartigan Price Fan Club.’ Grace objected to comparisons between her work and Andy Warhol’s ‘big facade,’ adding, ‘my work gets into the woman herself.’

Renato Guttuso: The Radical Marilyn

Renato Guttuso, 'Neighbourhood Rally' (1975)
Renato Guttuso, ‘Neighbourhood Rally’ (1975)

In a review of a new London exhibition celebrating the art of Italian communist painter Renato Guttuso, The Guardian‘s Jonathan Jones spotted a familiar face – Marilyn, a la Andy Warhol…

“Guttuso became a communist during the second world war, and fought in the resistance. His loyalty to the Italian Communist Party (PCI) never wavered: he was elected as a PCI member of the Italian senate twice in the 1970s. He became the party’s most approved and touted artist, because his art is so robustly realist.

Its political messages are not exactly subtle. Murdered partisans lie next to the red flag. A worker hews stone. A crowd of people gather in a small square to applaud the eloquent words of a communist orator, raising their fists, climbing on car roofs. This is 1975; it is a very benign view of Italian politics in the violent 1970s.

Yet the tumultuous crowd in Guttuso’s painting Neighbourhood Rally is full of unexpected faces. Marilyn Monroe is there. So are various faces from the art of Pablo Picasso, who himself appears on a balcony, fitting in with the crowd. The comic array of caricatures and quotations in this energetic painting has a dash of pop, like pepperoni added to realism’s doughy pizza.”

How Shirley Temple Inspired Warhol’s Marilyn

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A signed photo sent by child star Shirley Temple to a young Warhol, thought to have inspired his iconic screenprints of Marilyn, is featured in Love is Enough, a new exhibition at Oxford Modern Art, reports the Sunday Times (full article behind paywall.)

Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum in his hometown of Pittsburgh, describes the photo as the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of Warhol paraphernalia.  The colour tinting of the photo may well have influenced his images of Marilyn.

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“That’s what he wanted to be,” Geralyn Huxley of the Warhol Museum told the Pittsburgh Tribune after Shirley Temple died earlier this year. “He grew up poor as a child. In the case of Shirley Temple, she was rich, loved, taken care of, plus she was a child like him,” Huxley said. “When her films came out, it was the ultimate escape from the Depression that was going on. (Her movies) were emblematic of the American spirit as she soldiered on through adversity, standing up to authority.”

Warhol named Poor Little Rich Girl, his 1966 film starring Edie Sedgwick, after one of Shirley’s most popular hits. Born just two years before Warhol, Marilyn was also an ardent movie fan during Temple’s Depression era heyday, and would later become another of Twentieth Century Fox’s greatest stars. I’ve explored some of the parallels between MM and Temple here.

John Malkovich: Being Marilyn

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Actor John Malkovich has recreated a classic Marilyn pose for an art project with photographer Sandro Miller, now on display at Chicago’s Catherine Edelman Gallery, reports the Huffington Post. In the original photo session, with Bert Stern in 1962, Marilyn’s gallbladder surgery scar is also visible. Although Marilyn rejected a large number of his photos, Stern published them all after her death.

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It’s a problematic subject to begin with, given Stern’s attitude towards Marilyn. Some fans may consider it a mockery of her sex appeal. But at least there is a certain bravery and good humour in the reproduction.

Here is an example of a picture Marilyn rejected – the orange cross is from her own pen.

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And here it is re-enacted by Malkovich. I think this image is more powerful, because it reflects the ambivalence with which we now view Stern’s work – especially because it was one of Marilyn’s last photo shoots.

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Obviously, Malkovich can’t match Marilyn’s beauty. It might have been interesting to see Malkovich recreate one of George Barris’s gentler images of Marilyn, taken shortly before she died.

Marilyn by George Barris, 1962
Marilyn by George Barris, 1962

Marilyn is one of several women Malkovich impersonates: the others include Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Gordon Parks’ American Gothic, and Diane Arbus’s twins. Also featured is a parody of Warhol’s Marilyn, but that looks a lot like ‘Life is Wonderful’, Mr Brainwash’s MM/Michael Jackson portrait from 2009.

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John Malkovich as Warhol’s Marilyn
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‘Life is Beautiful’, Mr Brainwash, 2009

 

Pop Art Marilyn in Paris

Mr Brainwash, 2008
Mr Brainwash, 2008

Pop art images of Marilyn by Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Mel Ramos, Russell Young and Mr Brainwash – as well as photos by Lawrence Schiller – feature in ‘Les Marilyn’, an exhibition at the Galerie Tagliatella in Paris, on display until July 27.

Warhol’s ‘Unforgettable’ Marilyn

Warhol Marilyn

Jonathan Jones, art critic for The Guardian, includes Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych in his list of the Top 10 Unforgettable Faces in Art, alongside the Mona Lisa, Nefertiti, Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, and Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream.’

“Is Marilyn’s face unforgettable, or is it already fading? Warhol’s eerie Diptych – a diptych is a two-panelled alterpiece in medieval art – asks this by contrasting two sets of screenprinted images. In one grid of repeated portraits Marilyn’s face is preserved in lurid colours, as bright and permanent as a golden death mask. In the other, her beauty decays before our eyes, lost in the copying process, preserved only as a crude inadequate trace of the beauty that has died.”

 

Russell Young: Wild at Heart

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Russell Young is another British artist inspired by MM. His ‘Marilyn Crying’, coated in diamond dust, has become quite popular in recent years. It has inevitably been compared to Warhol, though personally I like the tenderness of Young’s image.

“One thing that is clear from the Wild at Heart series is his indebtedness to Andy Warhol through his print process and subject matters. The likeness is almost uncomfortably apparent, lacking the ‘here and now’ and intimacy that Warhol shared with his subjects during his Factory days. Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych was completed during the weeks after Monroe’s death and addresses her celebrity status, portrayal by the media and early death. Young’s glitzy prints salute old school Hollywood glamour and appear to sugar-coat as opposed to challenge representations of iconic Hollywood figures.” – Nastassja Smart, The Upcoming

What Marilyn Crying arguably lacks in originality, however, it may gain in context. The image – based on a photo by George Silk – was previously used for Anthony Summers’ 1985 biography, Goddess: The Secret Lives of MM. It was taken during a press conference in October 1954, when Marilyn announced her separation from Joe DiMaggio. Disturbingly, the image reveals a bruise on Marilyn’s forehead, perhaps the result of spousal abuse.

George Silk, 1954
George Silk, 1954

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‘Marilyn Crying’ is currently on display at Young’s latest exhibition, Wild at Heart (perhaps riffing on the title of David Lynch’s cult movie), at the cheekily-named Imitate Modern in London’s West End.

Russell Young with photographer David Bailey, and Marilyn
Russell Young with photographer David Bailey, and Marilyn

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One photo taken at the exhibition appears to show Young’s image juxtaposed with a press picture taken several months before, when Marilyn entertained US troops in Korea. It was one of the high-points of her career, but some felt it also marked the dawn of her marriage’s end.

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Galt Marilyn Raises Funds For Children

Artist Ed Chapman has created a 5ft square, Warholian image of Marilyn using Galt Toys products. Galt has paid £2,050 for the mosaic to the Toy Trust, and the money will help disadvantaged and disabled children in the UK and abroad.

Chapman previously created other ceramic mosaics of Marilyn, including one after Bert Stern’s famous 1962 photo sessions.

Marilyn

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