Even though icon Andy Warhol passed away twenty-five years ago, his legacy remains elastically strong in all its plastic nature; a man very “American” for being of the culture, by the culture, and for the culture. Many imitate the illustrious imitator hoping to acquire fame for a little longer than just fifteen minutes. You can’t hear a contemporary art critic elaborate on pop, street, and experimental artists without mentioning the masterful marketer masquerading as an artist, Andy Warhol. And with all the references to this pop art giant, perhaps only Banksy has skirted with attaining equality with the tomato-soup can man. For a man so “deeply superficial”, his impact and imprint continue to inspire aspiring artists because he was able to garner acclaim, fame, and fortune by going against the common conceptions of art and value. Normally, art is valued for its scarcity or originality or because it is a skillful, exceptional exercise of expression. Warhol’s art is mostly imitation, highly repetitious, easily replicable, and available in some shape or form somewhere for any person. But, because he struck the right chord at the right time with the countercultural movement—he received more fans than scoffers, fame instead of obscurity, and continues to be celebrated instead of forgotten.
It is fitting that this narcissistic culture obsessed with identity, distinction, and recognition is so caught up in doing the “same old thing in brand new drag” as David Bowie sang in “Teenage Wildlife.” Therefore, it is timely for The Odyssey Theatre’s Student Outreach Program (Odds) and the Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy to produce a tribute to Pop master Warhol through a kinetic, clever, and kitschy performance art piece. Leslie Ferreira and Tina Kronis direct this “docu-collage” which incorporates music, song, and dance with interviews and monologues (culled from the real interviews and actual quotes). Untitled Warhol Project is the chronological telling and showing of the life and vision of Andy Warhol in a “factory” setting. It is a diverting exercise for the developing performers to coalesce together as a strong ensemble in an entertaining piece. They are fully vested and committed in their performances playing multiple characters and executing Kronis’ choreography well—ranging from assembly-line movement to shameless disco line dancing.
The best part of the experience happens before the actual piece begins; all the cast situate their selves on Eddie Bledsoe’s busy but well dressed set with intense, strong poses staring intently at the audience. Abel Alvarado and Catalina Lee provide fun, retro, hip, costumes (hanging on racks on stage) that span several decades’ worth of styles. The piece starts strongly by having different members of the cast give their respective six-bullet-point biographies and sharing the artistic and personal goals they hope to accomplish in their lives. Then they all yell “I WANT TO BE FAMOUS.” The piece then starts Warhol’s biography; born a son to immigrant Hungarians living in Pennsylvania. It whizzes by his boyhood years, but takes time to showcase Warhol’s growth from advertising illustrator to Pop Pope; chronicling his start as an ink illustrator for new shoes, the soup can a-ha moment, exhibitions in New York, the exploding plastic inevitable show, the factory period, his getting shot, and the disco era. The ending takes a sharp, smart turn and makes the claim that though Warhol said he wanted to make everyone famous, in the end the only famous one was Warhol himself. However, there isn’t sufficient material in Kronis and Richard Alger’s text to make that moment have the powerful impact it is capable of having.
The piece succeeds in fulfilling its contract as a deeply superficial piece of entertainment; it is thoughtful, but not insightful—expressive but lacking in resonance. It is both respectful and reflective of Warhol’s life and legacy a la ‘exploding plastic inevitable’; well orchestrated and executed, but too self-satisfied in succeeding with its silkscreen-deep depiction of the icon to warrant recommendation.
photos by Ron Sossi
Untitled Warhol Project
The Odds and the Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy
played November 8 – 18, 2012 at the Odyssey Theatre
continues November 29 – December 1, 2012 at the Caminito Theatre/LACC Campus
for LACC tickets, visit Vendidi