Orange is the New Black is not just a TV prison drama, but also the title of Los Angeles-based artist Knowledge Bennett’s first solo exhibit in New York, tracing the history of race in modern America through a Pop Art perspective. The show includes a section devoted to Marilyn, Good Girl Gone Bad (also the title of an album by Rihanna, who is featured elsewhere.)
Bennett’s portraits of Marilyn pay homage to Andy Warhol, but crucially they add a sharp political edge to the ‘gangsta’ images of MM that adorn T-shirt stalls across the globe. The artist spoke about why he chose to depict Marilyn this way in an interview with Art ON!
“Quite often I seek to alter popular images in a very minimal way to tell a very different story. With my Marilyn Monroe series Good Girl Gone Bad, I simply added a tied bandana scarf around her head to make a statement of defiance and courage.
While researching the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, I was shocked to learn of Marilyn Monroe’s involvement and influence in helping to break the color barrier (in the entertainment industry) which existed during these times.
I developed a newfound respect for her and her contributions to society at large. To learn that this woman, who was mostly known only as a major film star and sex symbol, had the balls and compassion for others to go out on a limb and make this happen is something worth acknowledging.”
In late 1945, nineteen year-old Norma Jeane Dougherty visited her mother in Portland, Oregon, while on a road trip with photographer Andre de Dienes. More than seventy years later, Portland Art Museum will host the largest-ever Andy Warhol exhibit in the region from October through December – with a 1967 screen-print of Marilyn among the artefacts, reports Architectural Digest.
“The similarities between photographer Richard Avedon and artist Andy Warhol are almost uncanny. Both came from modest American backgrounds, both had substantial commercial success working in New York in the 1940s, and both then went on to develop their own distinctive artistic styles away from the commercial world in the 1960s. They treated similar subjects too: both captured the influential and the famous, and took an interest, often from a cynical standpoint, in the world of celebrity…
This is developed further in Warhol’s Four Marilyns (1979–86), a set of silkscreened portraits depicting Marilyn Monroe: Warhol became obsessed with portraying the star following her suicide in 1962. The use of repetition here is not only representative of Warhol’s work – the artist played with notions of seriality throughout his career – but of Pop art more generally, which often drew on images of mass production. This fascination with Monroe emphasises Warhol’s cynical view towards the superficiality of celebrity. He robs her face of all colour, leaving instead a black and white, ghostly image, with only the essence of Monroe’s facial features remaining.
Avedon’s portrayal of the star is markedly different, however. His 1957 photograph of Monroe betrays the photographer’s greater – and perhaps more conventional – desire to convey the sitter’s inner nature. Monroe is all dolled-up and wearing a shimmering dress, yet Avedon captures her at a moment when she is off-guard. She looks subdued and inward: here is perhaps a flicker of what lies beneath this endlessly performing star.”
As most art lovers will know, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn was created – and endlessly reproduced – after her death in 1962, from a publicity still by Frank Powolny. Despite all outward appearances, however, the image shown above is not a Warhol but a 1965 ‘remake’ by the artist Elaine Sturtevant. In a new book, Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn, Patricia Lee examines the concepts of artistic originality, authorship and celebrity (both Marilyn’s, and Warhol’s.)
“There is an almost studious infidelity to the results of Sturtevant’s recreations, even while the processes of their production may be rigorous in the extreme. For her Warhol Flowers, Warhol himself lent her the very screen he had used to print from. In the case of her Warhol Marilyn, the original screen was lost but Sturtevant successfully tracked down the original publicity still that it was made from and took it to Andy’s own silkscreen guy to make the stencil. In later years, when people asked Warhol how he made his silkscreens he would simply answer, ‘Ask Elaine.’
‘Everyone says, So, Andy really understood!‘ Lee quotes Sturtevant in the book, ‘Well I don’t think so. I think he didn’t give a f***. Which is a very big difference, isn’t it?'”
‘Warhol Avedon’, a new exhibition combining the works of pop artist Andy Warhol and photographer Richard Avedon, is on display until April 23 at The Gagosian in Britannia St, London (King’s Cross/St Pancras area.) Ash Moore reviews the exhibit for The 405, exploring the different ways in which Warhol and Avedon approached Marilyn as a celebrity subject. (The exhibition is also covered in Harper’s Bazaar‘s UK March edition.)
“Marilyn (1962) portrays the superstar in a deadpan expressionless aesthetic. It is the commentary rather than the portrait that seeps through and Warhol’s darker fascination with both her mortal death and her death of self is disclosed. The cheapening of her image through serialization and reproduction is a statement made by Warhol about the nature of society and the way personas could be marketed and consumed like products…
Unlike Warhol’s assembly line reproductions, Avedon set out to capture the genuine sentiments of celebrities. This is entirely poised in his portrait of Monroe in Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6 (1957). The comparison between the two sets of work is without precedent. In Avedon’s portrait, we see a more vulnerable or innocent looking Monroe, a side to her that wasn’t necessarily depicted in the public domain.”
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, 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.
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 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.’
In a review of a new London exhibition celebrating the art of Italian communist painter Renato Guttuso, TheGuardian‘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.”
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.
“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.