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Art review: Andy Warhol at Honor Fraser Gallery

November 24, 2010 |  5:00 pm

Warhol Camouflage 2
Silkscreen paintings and prints of military camouflage were among the last works made by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in the year before his death. Few if any were shown during his lifetime. Like much of his work from the 1970s and 1980s, they are pleasant but decidedly wan iterations of the once-bracing art-about-art that characterized his great 1960s Pop paintings.

At Honor Fraser Gallery, 15 canvases in various sizes, all dated 1986, join 12 works on acid-free cardboard -- unique 1987 trial-proofs for a series of prints -- plus three drawings in apparently different stage of finish. Varied camouflage patterns are rendered in colors ranging from monochrome blues and greens to vivid arrays of hot pink, bright orange and assorted rainbow hues.

The Day-Glo camo seems designed to disappear within an acid-rock fever dream.

Since the works accurately depict the designs of actual pieces of military cloth that the artist bought at an Army-Navy surplus store, the silk-screens are simultaneously figurative and abstract. The dappled format of interlocking organic colored shapes encourages you to check off a familiar list of established art historical references: Monet's waterlilies, Picasso's Cubism (“It is we who created that,” the Spaniard reportedly said when he first saw camouflage during World War I), poured paintings by Morris Louis and more.

But the references constitute not much more than a clever parlor game, at which Warhol was adept. When he marshaled it in the '60s, using conventional popular imagery to represent unconventional avant-garde art ideas that the general public either disliked or ignored, he bridged a yawning cultural gap. Given the strategy's success, he simply kept repeating it until his death.

The best feature of "Camouflage" is how it functions as ambiance, obscuring art by creating visual background noise. Warhol was William Morris for the post-industrial Arts and Crafts generation, these works anticipating the commercial camouflage wallpaper now available at big-box home improvement stores coast to coast.

-- Christopher Knight


Honor Fraser Gallery, 2622 La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, (310) 837-1091, through Feb. 5. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.honorfraser.com

Photo: Andy Warhol, "Camouflage," silkscreen trial proofs on museum board, 1987; Credit: Honor Fraser Gallery


Comments () | Archives (30)

Up & at'em, anti-Warholites! 'Ah, these aint nothing compared to a Cezanne, Vermeer, etc. etc.'
And so...??

They do feel like wallpaper!

Didn't Warhol, start his carer doing illustrations for magazines? The raw materials in publishing are "art" and "copy," which are treated as fungible commodities, just like pork bellies and lumber.

What he did in his art was to lift the danger quotes from art and copy, elevating the ordinary disposable imagery of our mass production society to the status of found art. He did it with a vacant gaze rather than an ironic wink, and that was his genius, but he couldn't have made a living at it if Duchamp hadn't already paved the way before him.

He was a stunningly clever one-trick pony, and that's OK. We still love him for it.

Nuthin worth commenting on. Design is design, some better than others. Just not creative art. Has about a fifteen second life span. Then throw the rag in the circular file. Call me when you got somethin worth lookin at.

art collegia delenda est

Take a good look at any major auction house and one finds that when it comes to contemporary and modern it is Warhol and Picasso who represent the greatest number of lots sold at the highest prices. The fundamental reason for this is that each artist leaves behind a very interesting and highly creative body of work and each artist as a human being led a colorful, interesting and well documented life which each new generation finds interesting. People from all walks of life are able to relate in someway to Warhol's narrative. If for example a collector is given to appreciating abstract expressionism and it's linkage to Monet, the New York School and other resources then Warhol's camouflage silkscreen paintings and prints along with such series as the the shadow series for example certainly must appeal in a tongue in cheek sort of way. Recently this last May Warhol's huge late self portrait in purple with Andy wearing his abstract expressionist fright wig and looking more stern than usual sold for a record breaking price at Sotheby's. This is the sort of Warhol masterpiece that any museum or future museum or even major collector most certainly should have not bypassed. It would have been great here in Los Angeles at the future Broad and I wonder why they didn't go for it with their resources? Yet, the same thing can be said about the more abstract camouflage series that at first seem less sexy and less intellectually aware in a conventional sort of way but are very important to an understanding of Warhol and the contemporary art world in which he worked and lived. It is interesting that Warhol did combine the camoufage with the self portrait into a single work, but the sum of the parts in my mind don't add up to a greater whole. Ken C. Arnold Santa Monica, Ca

Artists are irrelevant. they are no more, or less, important than the other 6 billion human beings on our planet. Art is only important in how if fulfills its roll in human culture. The 'artscene" is but a playground for self absorbed and spoiled children, always has been, always will be, as creative artists are solitary sorts. One gets blinded by the glitter and misses the forest.

Art history is for academics, if it doesnt have meaning within the general history of mankind, it is but careerist navel gazing. Art reveals life in another langauge, that of teh visual alone, never word based. It is musical adn poetic, evoking feelings of truth, abstract things we can never graps, but inspires us and propels us forward, to create.

This is but design that amuses a small and irrelevant subsect of society. Its great in a magazine, which is what Warhol developed through, then tossed in the trash when done. It is pop, disposable, clever and amusing, never deep or spiritual. Being clever is NOT intelligence. It being the clown to ones masters. And Warhol fulfilled that role very well.

Save the spiritual and creative Watts Towers(Nuestro Pueblo), tear down the careerist and passionless Ivories.

In the fascinating book The Religous Art of Andy Warhol by Jane Dillenberger, she discusses the camouflage paintings of Mr Warhol saying his camouflage Last Supper series merly reflected his deeply held religous convictions of which he had to hide/camouflage from the world at large. The man attended mass daily, to the surprize of many. No, he was not a painter in the style of Vermeer or Cezanne, but to dismiss his work is simply a lack of understanding what is was about and it's intent.

If there is a lack of understanding that is his fault, he failed as an artist. There is nothing to hide, literally. Few were as shallow and hollow as the bozo supreme, Warhol and his factory of lifeless dolls. You can claim it to mean whatever you want, that is what academics do. But he is revealed for what he was. Fifteen seconds of interest. And then dispose. Flush.

art collegia delenda est at its highest, which is pretty damn pathetic.

I always consider Warhol more a commercial artist than a fine artist. So how ironic is that his 'commercializing' of ordinary things is what got him noticed, and put him on too numerous museum walls to count.

Actually camouflage was invented by an artist but it wasn't Picasso: it was Abbott Thayer, whose 1909 book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom became a guide for artists on all sides of WWI. And yes, art is a plaything for rich people; so what? It's harmless.

Everyone likes some sort of Art.......Warhol and any artist for that matter appeals across a broad range of individuals......not only do Warhol or Picasso and even Rembrandt or Modigliani sell well at the major galleries and auction houses to the wealthy and highly educated they also have the greatest number of listings of lots on Ebay in the buy now categorary at prices under 25 dollars for the not-wealthy person. Everyone these days no matter what's in their wallet has access to plenty of well written low cost books on any artist or art movement inwhich they find delight. The circumstances that leads an individual to an appreciation of any particular artist is still personel and not readily predicable by their economic status or birthright. Human beings still largely respond to art for intrinsic reasons rather than to post themselves along some sort of social continuum. The world of collectors is bewildering.....for there are people out there collecting both the Art of the American Revolutionary period and Warhol at the same time so beware when trying to classify art admiration. Ken C. Arnold Santa Monica, Ca

It is now boris8, after being castrated by the Academies. It was always a threat before, Modern art wasnt acceptable til after WWII, and then got defanged by the newly reformed Acadmies the post impressionists ahd slwoly torn down. True Creative Art has power, and so the status quo fears it, and always attempts to tame it. For now, they have succeeded, it is meaningless again.

Time for true Change. Decadence always swings too far, our Era of Excess now over, but it will return, it always does. It is a battle, between the musical and poetic creatives, and the sterilized prosaics of the new Bastille, the Ivory Towers of academicism. Neither will ever win completely, the times define what will be, not the artists. But one must always be prepared to fight, and without end.

And Mr Arnold. When visiting intelligent people from all races and economic backgrounds, I have seen Matisse, Klee, Gauguin, and some Picasso on a regular basis, but never Warhol. Thats pretty much an artsy set, degreed types who live in apartments and sterile white walls. He doesnt translate well into reality.

Thats fine, but he has no appeal outside a certain and transitory subsect of Americans. not much appeal outside of here except in art schools, because he leaves an easily attainable example of career, well, the appearance of success. It is easy to teach and achieve his level of work, but not the above artists or many others. He is pop, and so disposable. Better in the media he loved than on the wall, kinda dead and boring there. Except to his followers.

The above almost works OK together, but separate them? dull, dull, dull. A work of art lives, has a presense, and feels fresh upon repeated viewing, Art is supposed to last, and grow on one, revealing more from interlaced layers and multiple relationships. This is what it is. And when the rather obvious point is gotten, done with.

15 minutes was wildly ambitious for him, as a lifes work, yes, but each piece? Nope. That aint art. Its design. Rather limited design at that. My wife does better. Because she does look at real art, and lives life, not in some laugh Factory for the wealthy to be amused by. Those were all vampires, the walking dead. I know they are In today, but for teenagers, which his level of intelligence was. It aint for grown ups.

Donald it is fare enough in my view if you just don't like an artist like Warhol....I am sure you are not alone...yet.....perhaps like John Dewey said art is merely a matter of taste and human circumstance and not constructed for some lofter aim like the purposeless purpose in the Kantian aethetic. For example, I don't care for Robert Rauschenberg's art after about 1964. I find it bland, uneventful and too easy. I didn't arrive at this position on Rauschenberg until I had examined his work for many years of casual study and one evening in the early 1990's I went to a opening of Rauschenberg in Santa Monica and was let down by his creations on aluminum panels.......for me it was not happening. I like and better appreciated his more expressive painterly wild art from the 50's and early 60's. The Rauschenberg show in NY that is going on now and reviewed today in the NYTIMES really is a nice jester to a important pivital artist but I am not leaving home for it. Much of the New York Post Modernist art work from the 1980's like Schanable, Salle and few Germans thrown in for comfort such as Kieffer also have left me wanting for in my reappraisl. I think it really would be a mistake for me to state that because I don't like a certain artists work of this period other people of sound mind and intellect from a certain social class or economic group should not like it either........That would be absurd and profoundly arrogant and would give me the power to know much about others that no other person in human history has been able to do successfully before. I mean we are not talking about beanie babies, beer can or NASCAR collectables here.....we are talking about fine art. We are still very close to the time period of the creation of these works.....and the new generation has it's hero's. There are a lot of people out there who present taste of fine art is their Warhol Skateboard deck next to their Damien Hirst Skateboard deck mounted proudfully prominent in their houshold hall of fame. And I support their freedom to choose and admire their choice. Ken C. Arnold Santa Monica, CA

I forgot to mention Miro and Michelangelo. Rembrandt and Durer seem to be for older generations, I am 51.

I agree with you about Rauschenberg, though he was perhaps the last great artist, his works led many astray as its misinterpretation into pop gave art schools much to use for their own benefit, and arts demise. Those other artists you mention are Contemporary, not Modern. They dont use the whole field, except Schnable's weak plates, which gave a cubist apperance and all over texture and cohesiveness that is a mark of Modernism, but lacks substance and purpose. No depth or line, color or real layered relationship building structure. The equivalent of musics Melody, harmony and rhythm. Yes, those things do still exist. Outside of the art academies. Cant teach talent or empathy for Man, a deep seated sociopathy and narcissism have taken root in the artscene. Warhol among the first.

Kiefer is a great artist. However, because he was thought one of their own at first, and perhaps was, he was accepted in the neutered, PC contempt club. He did his nazi boy photos and was seen as conceptual. But he grew up, something that would be nice in the art world, instead of repeating adolescent desires over and over ad nauseum. Too late to weed him out once he got his foot in the door, but true creatives can seldom be seen as one of the frat boys of art and get away with it. We got other concerns, and real lives outside the sycophantic and parpasitic brownosing artworld.

Again, Warthol is unapologetically design. He was fine with that, and used money as the measure of success. I dont hate on buying it, just the substituting it for true creative art. They are different things. He is big in the entertainment and performing arts, which are interpretive, not creative. And most people dont care about that, but do crave purpose and meaning in life.

If art did, it would have a far bigger share of the audiennce, about 20% are receptive from experience. Contempt art gets about 20$% of 1%, only art school types. While MoMA and the Met get throngs, MoCA is ignored, deservedly so. It has nothing for Us. It is an industry institution, Meism on display everyday. But MoMA is going down the slippery slope, bringing in Contempt art when it should stick to Modern. It does still exist, if igonored by the industry which fears it, the mirror to reveal its Imperial Clothing.

So buy Warhol, I dont care. But stop saying it is creative art, it isnt, and he never claimed it to be. This wouldn't hurt his sales, and allow true art to return and let the people decide. They are famished for nourishment. Intellectual Tofu is killing them.

Save the spiritual and creative Watts Towers(truly a series of sculptures and a religious cathedral, Nuestro Pueblo). Tear down the sterile and industrial Ivories.

The lengthy comments on this exhibition, ranging from opinions to artspeak to artbabble, are indicative of the power of Warhol’s art – which is an art of ideas, and not of beautiful, stunning paintings. As has been said, you can look at a Van Gogh, a Watteau, and even a Rembrandt without thinking. But you can’t look at a Warhol without thinking.

Furthermore, an undercurrent of these comments, and of many attacks on Warhol these days, appears to be nothing more than resentment of the fact that his works are commanding such high prices, at times even higher than for a Magritte, Modigliani, etc. This is a complete misreading of the current art world, and people should realize that during the past decades it has by and large morphed into a stock market. A great many people are buying art as an investment, and not because of what they feel the artistic ‘value’ of a work might be. In other words, just because a work sells for $10 million doesn’t mean it’s twice as ‘good’ as one that sells for only $5 million, but only half as good as one that goes for $20 million. It only reflects what the buyer feels will bring a profit on down the road.

I admire Warhol for what he did to shake up the art world, starting with yet another posing of the eternal question, ‘What is art?’. And I like his works - not because they match up to a dazzling Vermeer, Van Gogh, et al., because they don’t. It’s because there is something original and compelling about them, and that’s enough for me. He and the other pop artists of his generation opened the door to subject matter that never once occurred to previous artists. They weren’t the first to challenge people’s limited preconceptions of art – that it must be morally uplifting, that it must be beautiful – not by far, but they were a major force in the new challenge.






Low Self esteem Means Friction and Trouble?!?!
figures, about right.
and your musical tastes match your visual, probably like David Bowie and the Beatless too. Talk about adolescent irritating exhibitionist angst and self absorbed lullabies.

If you like rock, there were a few for mature adults. Hendrix, the Allman Bros, even Traffic, who though lacked the musical abilities of the first two, were adventurous, and all listened intently to real art music, so Miles Davis a huge impact.

All you artsy types listening to other children, whining about how they cant always get what they want. The Stones far more mature if just a fun garage band. They knew if you work, you get what you need. These artsy fartsy types are college level stuff, just like academic art, one is supposed to mature and grow up. But that means living life and having real human experiences. Not isolated in the adolescent "artscene" where adulthood is banned, Peter Pan the god of contempt types.

Adults listen to Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin onto the end of Euro music in Schoenberg, Satie and Brecht. Then real Modern music, from Armstrong, the Cezanne of music, to Ellington, the Monet. Then Bird(Charlie Parker for you musically challenged) the analytical cubist Picasso to Diz's Braque. Miles Davis the Matisse, Monk the Klee, Coltrane the synthetic Picasso/Braque, Colemnan the Pollock, etc, etc...

You world culturally deprived contempt types need to get out more. Worshipping a hollow idol isnt art. Warhol but a stoodge to amuse his masters. He knew it and wallowed in it, thats called decadence. His choice. Interesting work, in a magazine. Then, into the circular file. Doesnt make the bookshelves, it has no shelf life.

sigh, once more, art collegia delenda est
"Fine" art colleges must be destroyed.

There are no thougths in Warhol, it is what it is. Creative art in reverse, and so, retarded, stunted, souless. Art works FROM ideas and theories, adapting, evolving, growing into a life force according to the artists filter of life. one developed out here in the real world. But perpetually adolescent in the "artscene". These are but sketches of the veneer of life. There is but one original thought, and then the illustration of it. Thats shallow. and so reveals the artist, as art is not self expression, but expressIVE of life, through the artists sensibilities. And when juvenile, this is what you get.

No problem with it existing, but as having taken over and shut out true art as the threat it is to academic survival it is a detrement to human culture, and so ignored by the vast majority it is supposed to be about.
Who are We? Where do We come from? Where are We going? What is Our purpose?
These are the questions of creative art, not the meaningless drivel of sterile, adolescent art academia.
And so,
art collegia delenda est

The Age of Excess is over, and the Meism of its dogma.

"The Age of Excess is over, and the Meism of its dogma." --Donald Frazell

Does this hold true for blog comments? Do I take it that Donald will stop his excessive, self-absorbed posting here?

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