We Like — Spectral Warhol

Andy Warhol’s legacy is the visceral spectre hovering in the ether of a substantial exhibition curated from a substantial private collection currently showing at Nieuw Dakota, a key new non-profit space in Amsterdam’s docklands.

Apopcalypse Now at Nieuw Dakota - installation view

Apopcalypse Now at Nieuw Dakota - installation view

The starting point for ‘Apopcalypse Now’ is one particular work by Andy Warhol in the collection of Hugo and Carla Brown whose collection includes over 950 works of modern and contemporary art. In this particular work, ‘The Shadow’ (1981) from his Myths series we are offered a self-portrait of the father of Pop. In it, Warhol’s distinctive face stares out at us from the right hand side of the image. But, what dominates is his shadow that fills much of the work. The angle of the light renders that shadow dark and foreboding. Rather than a flattering silhouette, instead Warhol gives us a rather Gothic skeletal phantom of his familiar face, its deep black shadow all the more heightened by the pinky mauve colour strewn with diamond dust that fills the rest of the image, outlining the stark lines of his own shadow.

In it we also readily see the echoes of Warhol’s earlier foray into directly referencing the tradition of the Vanitas. Here he directly links his own image with that of the spectral shadow that seems to fulfill many of the sobering functions of the skull in the Vanitas tradition. It is as if Warhol insists on personalizing the observation, placing himself and his world at the centre of a subtle warning that some, with the benefit of hindsight, might even choose to interpret as prophetic.

Furthermore, taken in the greater context of the overall collection, it is clear to see how some of the essential elements of this work and its complex meanings resonate in many other works in the collection, both by Warhol’s contemporaries and by much younger artists.

‘Apopaclypse Now’ examines how these two strands, the popular of Pop’s mode and the underlying notions of foreboding, anxiety and collapse, snake through the collection of Hugo & Carla Brown, sometimes present as a singular quality and sometimes combined within individual works.

This is not to say that all the works selected deal with the same ideas or have the same approach. On the contrary, both the collection as a whole and the works shown in ‘Apopcalypse Now’ are varied and eclectic in both practice and imagery or form. For example, some of the works offer a neutral matter-of-fact face to the world or a po-faced satire of the type readily associated with Pop Art whilst the work of other artists selected seems to relish in a kind of nihilistic hyperbole or dramatic apocalyptic emotive imagery. And, naturally, many of the younger generations of artists included address much more recent topics than those that formed the backdrop to nascent Pop Art.

Yet, considered more closely, it soon becomes clear that what they all share are certain ideas and approaches that first emerged with Pop, something that Hugo and Carla Brown’s collection seems to have intentionally or intuitively embraced. The exhibition includes painting, photography, sculpture and video by a large cast of international artists, some of them immediately recognizable names, others strong emerging talent. They include Charles Avery, Hernan Bas, Dirk Braeckman, Jemima Brown, Marc Bijl, Anton Corbijn, Iris Van Dongen, Tim Eitel, Martin Eder, Laura Ford, Cyprien Gaillard, Anthony Goicolea , Keith Haring, David Haines, Thomas Hirschorn, Josepha de Jong, Michael Kirkham, David LaChapelle, Edward Lipski, Dawn Mellor, Julian Opie, Ronald Ophuis, Elizabeth Peyton, Angie Reid, Boo Ritson, Dennis Rudolph, Christian Schoeler, Billy Sullivan, Lucy Wood and others.

Nieuw Dakota is a unique non-profit space located in the easily accessible area of Amsterdam’s docklands that it currently experiencing a flourishing or regenerative activity through culture, for example together with commercial galleries and creative businesses, MTV have recently located their new HQ in the neighbourhood. Uniquely, Nieuw Dakota has developed a programme that focuses on motivating private collectors to show their collections to the public.

‘Apopcalypse Now’ will continue until the end of April 2011

Angie Reed video installation

Angie Reed video installation