Living Portraits – From Warhol to the Pageant of the Masters

There’s something about the idea of a live, or even filmed, artistic portrait which excites my brain. Is it the blend of real and unreal? Is it the idea of a human being as an art piece? Clearly it’s something that’s interested artists for quite some time too from Piero Manzoni, who signed a live girl in the sixties, to Gilbert and George (see video below).

Let’s have a quick look at Warhol’s portraits, filmed in the 60s, also known as screen tests although they weren’t being tested for any films. Screentest.warhol.org says “Many of Warhol’s Screen Tests fit the standard formula—the subject and the camera almost motionless for the duration of the film, with the result as close to a “living portrait” as possible.

However, within this format, there are subtle variations. Starkly lit with a single lamp, a glowering Paul America and the intense Susan Bottomly are sharply contrasted by the dark background, while Ann Buchanan and Edie Sedgwick’s Screen Tests were fully lit, allowing the viewer to notice every subtle change in their almost unmoving faces.”

In a way, by candidly filming his followers, Warhol created not only the first reality stars but turned their often crazy and turbulent existences into lifelong portraits.

Edie Sedgwick:

Lou Reed:

Salvador Dali:

Also in the sixties playful British and German artists Gilbert and George, who have never quite been accepted by the establishment, became living, singing sculptures. Whitecube.com says “in their films and ‘living sculpture’ they appeared as figures in their own work. The artists believe that everything is a potential subject matter for their work, and they have always addressed social issues, taboos and artistic conventions.”

Avant garde artist and theatre director Robert Wilson, who has worked the likes of Tom Waits and Willem Dafoe (and now Lady Gaga), filmed his Voom Portraits in 2007. The actors used, including Steve Buscemi, Johnny Depp, Winona Rider and Isabella Rossellini, were told to “think of nothing and move slowly and steadily to collaborate in Wilson’s vision of who they might be.”

Winona Rider apparently appeared as “Winnie, the main female character in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, buried up to her neck in sand” while Robert Downey Jr was “a dreaming corpse in a Rembrandt painting.”

Steve Buscemi:

Winona Rider:

Isabella Rossellini:

William Pope L:

In 2009 Antony Gormley was to create something for the fourth plinth, a stand in Trafalgar Square, London, which sports a different sculpture each year. He decided to make his piece us, to “see through a lens what the UK is really like.”

One and Other was a project which saw the public apply to stand at the top of the plinth for an hour each, for “100 consecutive days, 24 hours a day.” We became the artwork. One lady threw affirmations down as paper airplanes, another did science experiments, another blew bubbles, others made art while another did a burlesque routine. The possibilities were endless and apparently 2,400 people took part.

Man booing BNP:

This lady…wore pink and drank pink champagne. And why not?

Here’s a dancer and choreographer:

Ekow Eshun is the artistic director of the ICA and chairman of the Fourth Plinth commissioning group. He’s also quite hot (apologies for my objectifying eyes). Here he talks about why he chose the project:

Which brings us up to the Pageant of the Masters, which I only heard about the other day. Sounds like my cup of tea though. Apparently paintings have been re-created for two months each summer in Laguna Beach, California, since 1933.

The Festival of Arts website says “Over 500 volunteers from Laguna Beach and surrounding communities are transformed into life-sized re-creations of some of the world’s most famous paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.” Have a look at the video:

Right, I’m off to paint myself green and stand nude in the garden. Bye!

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s