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Andy Warhol exhibition impresses the critics

The recent exhibition by London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery of the works of Andy Warhol is impressive, according The Telegraph’s art critic Richard Dorment. Not overwhelming, but just big enough to give the public an idea of Warhol’s contribution to the art world, which is not insignificant.

Warhol is an important figure in art history. Many people are unaware of the influence he had on the world of art, especially in terms of the unique techniques he used to bring topical and everyday events to life. Although his subject choice of popular culture gave him a somewhat controversial fame, it was his choice of delivery that gave him his importance to the art world.

His innovative technique of transferring still images to canvas or paper used a silk screening process, often used in mass production of items like Christmas cards or printed tee-shirts. According to friend and colleague Henry Geldzahler, Warhol brought together the worlds of fine art and commercial production which had not been attempted before.

Although artists have used silk screening before, it was normally to reproduce their own work. Warhol made the process unique by using his own images or selecting photographs already in print and then transferring to fabric or paper. The silkscreen images tended to print irregularly, and reminded Warhol of the photos found in the tabloids.

The selected image was stenciled on to an acetate plate at a lab. Warhol’s technique was then to manipulate the image with chemicals to make the finished look his own. He had assistants in the silk screening process but Warhol completed the acetate manipulation on his own. The final step was to transfer the design to a mesh and a printer fed ink through the screen onto the canvas.

The process meant Warhol effectively had a template that he could then produce in various combinations of color; normally each different combination required a separate silk screening process. It meant that Warhol could take one piece of art and create any number of new pieces around the original; with each new item standing on its own and possibly saying something different each person.

The exhibition is good example of Warhol’s technique. Various exhibits display a gradual variation of color, hue and contrast in seemingly experimental images but end up as artworks in their own right; an interpretation altered with each different emphasis of color and light.

From drama filled black and white shots of race riots (Alabama 1964) though to a sophisticated rose, mauve and lilac in Flowers (1970) Warhol demonstrates his continued mastery of his own inspired technique, which came about through the use of existing technology but employed in a subtly different way.

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