It may come as a surprise to many people that Andy Warhol, widely recognized for his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup paintings, also explored the medium of black and white film. Screen tests that he shot during the 1960′s can now be seen at an exhibit called “Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures” at the Modern Museum of Art (MoMA).
The most interesting part of the exhibit is the main room, which features twelve 7′ by 9′ moving portraits projected on silver screens. They fill the space with a presence larger than just the physical size of the projections. Going into the room feels like entering the coterie of Andy Warhol; these are moving portraits of the people in his circle. The images are playing in continuous loops, but at a speed slightly slower than the customary 24 frames per second. The result is a timeless depiction of nearly forgotten pop icons like Paul America, Baby Jane Holzer, and a restless Nico from Velvet Underground.
One of the most charismatic subjects is Donyale Luna, engaging the camera with her striking good looks and playful expressions. Born and raised in Detroit, she later became the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue and star in major motion pictures such as Fellini’s Satyricon.
Being in the presence of these larger than life subjects, who were once notable but no longer appear in the media, makes one curious about what became of them. After leaving the exhibit, I wanted to learn more about the clique of personalities that surrounded Warhol in his avant-garde world. The media may have forgotten them, but Andy Warhol has made them immortal through these ethereal projections that feel almost ghost like. The exhibit, at MoMA until March 21, is a fascinating reminder of Warhol’s artistic genius, so check it out. – Will Bradford