Andy Warhol Polo Players Andy Warhol Polo Players
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Overview

The sheer mass of man and animal, the colours galore, the bold lines of the drawings, the serialised profiles and the instantaneous split second in time- all these  give away the date and place of creation.

Once again we see before us Warhol images we had divined but which lay fallow at the back of our minds. The human and horse coming at us in 'frontal perspective'- no profiles, only the spit second of the camera shot- film or paper- the horse charges us with no 'misgivings'. For the twenty-second century archaeologist this would indicate ' late twentieth century silkscreen transfer from freeze frame', printed on coloured paper. The sheer mass of man and animal, the colours galore, the bold lines of the drawings, the serialised profiles and the instantaneous split second in time- all these give away the date and place of creation. The assemblage/collage method could be calledcubist or more likely constructivist. The superimposition of figures- as montage- is clearly twentieth century issue of Sergei Eisenstein. One recalls Russian albums such as those of Aleksej Krucenyh ' La Guerre Universelle' from 1916 where laid coloured paper creates forms in space. Francis Bacon pored over...

Once  again we see before us  Warhol images we had divined  but  which lay fallow at the back of our  minds.

The human and horse coming at us in  "frontal perspective"- no profiles, only the spit second of the camera shot- film or paper- the horse charges us with no "misgivings".

For the twenty-second century archaeologist this would indicate " late twentieth century silkscreen transfer from freeze frame", printed on coloured paper. 

The sheer mass of man and animal, the colours galore, the bold lines of the drawings, the serialised profiles and the instantaneous split second in time- all these  give away the date and place of creation.

The assemblage/collage method could be  calledcubist or  more  likely constructivist.  The superimposition of figures- as montage- is clearly twentieth century issue of Sergei Eisenstein. One recalls Russian albums such as those of Aleksej Krucenyh " La Guerre Universelle" from 1916 where laid coloured paper creates forms in space. 

 Francis Bacon pored over original Muybridge albums, dismembered on his studio floor_ human and animal figures in motion which transformed themselves onto the canvas. Andy’s sucessive studios were cluttered with all the silver screen beauties in magazines, tinselled memories which popped up as direct transfers to our mindscreens.

Warhol‘s talents as art director are manifest here, continually manipulating content and creating frames like Martin Munkacsi, or seizing the movement a la Gjon Mili. Photographic depiction exploring all of the innovations of the twentieth century runs through Warhol’s complete oeuvre.   

Laid colour papers in the works here exhibited remind us of Matisse's last works, placing coloured papers, and cut-out forms on paper- and arranging and deconstructing them at will. 

In 1930 Matisse had discovered that "my paintings and drawings are going separate ways", thereby formulating a basic problem every painter encounters. 

However the cut-outs and the difficulties of reproducing them we have described here enabled him to overcome the problem. The cut-outs meant he could go back to the essentials, in fact in an extreme and radical way. With their help Matisse bridged the gap between painting and drawing.  The poor method of scissor cuts, and the "cut and paste" style now part of mainstream layouts places Warhol's art, as always, at the crossroads between "modernism" and the future. 

As portrayed ina seminal revisitation of Pop Art in the 80's a discussion of Richard Hamilton‘s art and the sources in the surrealist works of Schwitters and Ernst-  the critic Brian Wallis commented  on Lawrence Alloways‘ definition of Pop art: 

"a serious taste for popular culture, a belief in multi evocative imagery, and a sense of the interplay of technology and man"  

One can readily  see that the polo images fall neatly into this definition. 

Alloway's vision of art in terms of "the fine art/pop art continuum" whereby 

 "all kinds of messages can be transmitted to every kind of audience along a multitude of channels" suggests qnd even mimics the strong currents of imagery and human interplay which defines Warhol‘ work.  

 

 

Polo and Warhol- at odds? Not at all would say Fred Hughes:

"One aspect of Andy's paradoxical nature was this constant conflict between convention and unconventionality; it was hard to predict when one  would rise above the other. This was successfully resolved only in his paintings.  

In much the same way as another American  Ralph Lauren changed his name and created the "Polo" Collection- i.e. singled out the dream of the fifties and sixties, with its prepschool and college heroes, its white shorted rugby shirted "beaus" , Andy Warhol also admired that extremely Fitzgeraldian aspect of America- a trait which seems quite unique and indigenous to this otherwise „new world“. And the clear eyed tall booted and helmeted polo players- not a sport to be taken up by the weak at heart. Andy’s worldview is definitely a glimpse  at this part of the social landscape.  It could be argued that the ashheaps or the „bought luxury of starshine“  the eyes of Doctor  T. J. Eckleberg are definitely one of the dramatis personae in "The Great Gatsby". This seriously constructed universe depicts Gatsby navigating on the edges of a world which he has entered but will never completely inhabit.

 

                             The Fitzgeraldian metaphors are perhaps the first "pop art" images.  

"Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor"   Andy‘s portraiture could be seen likewise as a way of possessing his subjects, or at least encapsulating them if only for a split second.

" and he( Gatsby)took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously-eventually he took Daisy one still Öctober night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand".  

Further into this Fitgeraldean optic, Daisy's husband Tom  Buchanan was introduced as a "polo player" and even he at one point chafed at the summary introduction because of all the extraneous aura attached to such a moniker. 

Finally polo players were were the golden boygods, those hunks of the sixties before society collided with the cutting edge of the avant-garde. Andy Warhol's Factory was definitely the cauldron the "lieu par excellence" where this collision took place- the „Baby Jane" Holzers, Cornelia Guests,  Jamie Wyeths and Peter Beards all somehow interacted and  and none was the same again. These names strewn  like stardust through the biographies and diaries fall into this encounter  between the social register and the wild side. 

 

 

And the polo pictures are somewhat like biology experiments where Andy mixed colour and line, just like the batches of real people meeting in random order in the studio. Sort of to see what would happen. But then wasn't his entire oeuvre an experiment of chemical bonding wherein humans and materials were joined forever? 

America’s finest, Liz and Elvis and Marilyn, - they represent our unique "blends". In the same way certain debutantes  kicked off their satin slippers and danced to the Doors- or swung on the chandeliers of Southampton estates only to be brought to shame in Life magazine? Something changed irremediably there. Andy was able to glimpse this fading America again in Europe, as one  reads his diaries from Paris to Saint Moritz one still feels the frisson he felt : The horses on frozen lakes, the races at Longchamp.

Once  one has peeped into that hole, once one has, as Gatsby, aspired to that kind of insouciance- and the impotence of being there- as Gatsby ruefully realised , there is no return possible. 

Of how Daisy and Tom slipped back into their money, their carelessness... 

One sees Andy on that edge. His description in the diaries of Frolic Weymouth and his horses and carriages- another of the protagonists in this seeming assumption of a life which is in the end impenetrable- but which has compressed and immortalised the players into another dimension.

As the shiny sheet protagonists hovered on the edge of respectability, walking on the  wild side at Palladium and the Factory there was somehow no crossover-they were as statufied in celluloid,  as a Byzantine icon is encrusted in gold leaf :  Warhol was the ultimate outsider.

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