This talk of bluejeans was making me very jealous. Of Levi and Strauss. I wish I could invent something like blue-jeans. Something to be remembered for. Something mass.
-Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.
ANDY WARHOL’s name is hanging from light posts all over the city of Toronto. Bold, unapologetic block letters are plastered on the sides of busy streetcars, and two banners the size of your first apartment cover half of the Bell Lightbox cultural center. In honor of the Toronto International Film Festival’s 40th birthday, the Lightbox opened its doors to the Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen exhibition, a celebration of the iconic artists contribution to art and film. Complete with 800 artworks and artifacts, Warhol’s personal scrapbooks and memorabilia, two film programmes releasing one film a week, the exhibition exhibition is as close as you’ll probably ever get to peering into Warhol’s fragile, brilliant, scattered, innovative mind.
Upon entering the Lightbox building, visitors are greeted with episodes from Warhol’s television works from the 1970s and 80s. Rarely seen Factory Diaries videos and episodes of “Fifteen Minutes” and “Fashion” stream alongside early editions of Interview magazine (the publication Warhol founded in 1969).
Continuing into the exhibit places visitors in the middle of a giant, warped, and twisted hall of mirrors. Pieces are polished to perfection, reflecting another work behind you (or is it around the corner?), allowing you to see your own face in Warhol’s work. You, the observer, are now more than a participant, you are a part of the display with your reflection frozen alongside Marilyn’s hazy smile.
Once you’ve gathered your bearings, visitors are lead into a massive collection of Warhol’s personal magazines, screen prints, costumes, films, artwork, and photographs.
Reflected in glass cases are frozen poses of scattered shrines to Warhol’s muses: Edie Sedgwick, Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak. The next room contains a chilly recreation of the Silver Factory lounge, complete with a plush couch, split disco ball, tumbling reels, silver wall phone, and Polaroids. This is the room that was once the centre of the social scene in 1964, where stars were planted and sprouted, Bolex cameras were loaded with 16mm film, and over 500 screen tests were created.
Finally, visitors are faced with the unblinking eye of a camera lens, in true Warhol fashion. Tucked away is a screen-test set up complete with a limp black curtain, silver brick wall, glaring lights, creaky stool, and rolling camera. You are filmed for 3 minutes; what you do is up to you. Do you stare right back? Tell a joke? Dance? Fidget? Sing? Laugh? Scowl? What are they waiting for? What are you waiting for? In a day and age where we are documenting our every move, it is fascinating to watch people’s discomfort on the stool.
To anyone who has ever fantasized about being part of what is arguably the coolest scene New York ever witnessed, this exhibit provides a bizarre time-travel experience into a golden age of culture and art.