Dial-up internet had just sprouted legs and began to crawl out of the water when Andy Warhol died. Yet, somehow, he pegged the Facebook aesthetic while Mark Zuckerberg was still learning how to speak in complete sentences. Saying “Warhol was ahead of his time” isn’t so much a cliché compliment as pointing out some sort of cosmic mistake.The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts highlights Andy Warhol’s photography in its outgoing exhibit, Andy Warhol and Friends. The exhibition features the photographic work of Andy Warhol, combining his photo booth images, Polaroids, and his series of self portraits among other work. The collection includes portraits of celebrities such as Liza Minnelli, Mick Jagger, and Sylvester Stallone.
Though Warhol’s screen prints may be more highly sought after, I’d argue that his photographs are often more relevant. Warhol’s small self portraits for example, clearly anticipate Social Networking avatars. Not directly, but it is fascinating in the quarter of a century that has passed, the aesthetics of this type of self-representation has changed little. It isn’t difficult to imagine Warhol taking these exact self portraits with Instagram and uploading it to his Twitter profile. The reason these self-portraits were so engrossing involves more than aesthetics. The idea isn’t quite that of preferring image over content. Rather, Warhol’s photographs point to our photo saturated world where the image is the content. Consider what Warhol would do with the likes of Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Andy Warhol and Friends not only reminded me of avatars but also of news feeds, our constant documentation of everyday life. One brilliant photograph held me longer than the others: a photo of Mick Jagger eating. Warhol snapped the photo while Jagger had food on his fork and was bringing it to his mouth. His eyes concentrate intently on the incoming bite. Jagger’s face resembles that of an infant’s opening wide for a pacifier. The attention keeps being drawn to his mouth and to see it open in perpetual anticipation makes the scene nearly sexual. Something I found funny is how I unintentionally imagined the scene playing out: Warhol snapping the photo, not with his eye plugged to a view finder, but holding an iPhone out in front of him.
It’s easy to get lost in a ‘what if’ train of thought. The FMoPA’s exhibit makes it even easier to get lost in the world of Andy Warhol, where Dolly Parton is a friend and Sting will pose for a picture. I would’ve been tweeting the whole thing.
Congratulations to the FMoPA on a successful inaugural exhibition in their new home in the Cube at Rivergate.