legacy has manifest itself in popular consciousness in ways both obvious and
nuanced; the artist’s appeal lies in the fact that his work transcended boundaries
between high and low art, music, cinema and plastic arts, as well as concept
and execution. His influence extends far beyond the Pop
revolution he helped to proliferate. Both celebrating Warhol’s enigmatic
influence and building upon it, “Eric’s Trip
on view at Lisa Cooley Gallery, is named and themed after Reel 9 of Andy
Warhol’s 1966 film Chelsea Girls
. Reel 9
depicts performer Eric Emerson delivering a free-associative monologue while
tripping on LSD. Warhol punctuates the piece with his own adornments of
psychedelic cinema technique and technicolor floodlights.
Curated by Cynthia Daignault and
Mark Loiacono, “Eric’s Trip” takes its lead from Chelsea Girls’
experiment in consciousness, transcending any one chemical or artistic
influence and instead revealing to us the potential depths of artistic
perception, and the value of looking inward before looking outward. The show
expands upon the musicality of the film, as Cynthia (a painter on the gallery’s
roster) and Mark (a curator, critic, and Warhol scholar) play in a band
together. They drew inspiration for the exhibition’s title in part from a
Warhol-influenced Sonic Youth song of the same name. Artsy spoke to the
curatorial duo about the exhibition’s thesis and what unites the diverse range
of disciplines and artists included.
Artsy: How do these works
interact with one another?
Cynthia Daignault and Mark Loiacono:
Have you ever imagined your dream dinner party? You’ll invite some people you
really admire (heroes, idols, mentors), some old friends, some new friends.
Everyone will bring something different to the night: the wine, the charm, the
humor, the looks, the love. This show was like that for us. We invited a dream
list of artists, including idols (Nancy Shaver, Judith Linhares, Sheila Hicks
, Margaret Lee
, José Lerma
newer faces (Mathew
, Victoria Fu
Kamau Amu Patton, and Rory Mulligan).
We had strong impulses about how
they would relate, yet were still surprised by the specifics. It was moving to
see the spark between Rory Mulligan’s black-and-white photographs and the
colorful gestural paintings of Judith Linhares. It’s so rare to see straight
photography placed anywhere near a painting in a contemporary gallery.
Similarly, it’s rare to see Sheila Hicks in relation to new media work like
Kamau Amu Patton, a pairing which drew new connections between the undercurrent
patterns in textile and video technology. We worked hard to make sure that each
work had its own niche such that any of the works could easily be billed as the
star of the show.
Artsy: What are some of the
non-Warholian traditions these works draw from? They’re pretty diverse.
CD & ML: Breadth is something
that was central to Warhol’s practice, and we chose to highlight it here in
order to expand what is meant by the term “Warholian.” Our intention here is to
broaden Warhol’s legacy to be more true to his works, rather than the myths
that have come to be built around them. We selected a diverse group of artists,
each who draw on their own wide and unique set of traditions.
Take David Kennedy-Cutler. David’s
clear plastic sculptures are the embodiment of gestural action sculpture. They
reference the forcefulness of Pollock
gestures, yet simultaneously efface that history in their transparency (just as
Rauschenberg erased de Kooning
They are specters of Abstract Expressionism
shadows of Rodin
, and tracers of dancers like Judith Jamison, Yvonne Rainer
or, for that matter, Eric Emerson. Or Judith Linhares. Judith’s paintings
reference a broad spectrum of traditions around color, fantasy, and “the nude,”
relating to artists as far-ranging as Manet
, Joan Mitchell
, Kiki Smith
Eric Emerson in Warhol’s film, the figure in Linhares’ Polly
for instance, may be offered up for the visual enjoyment of the viewer, but
there is a distinct sense that she is much more interested in her own enjoyment
than ours. Her stare is directed inward, not outward. Just like Eric Emerson,
she is “grooving on her own body,” and in her disinterest suggests that we
might want to do the same.
Artsy: Is the subtext here
that artworks have the power to alter perception in a way similar to a
CD & ML: To us, the notion of a
“trip” simply suggests a transversal narrative, from point A to point B.
Transformation is implied, but not necessary. Life is perhaps the ultimate
trip. Consciousness is intrinsically hallucinatory—overwhelming, immersive,
shifting, and intensely singular. As such, the notion of “tripping" puts
pressure on whatever modes of linguistic or visual representation are called
upon to communicate the experience with others. Any attempt is intrinsically
flawed and bound to fail.
Warhol knew this. His film of Eric
Emerson’s trip in The Chelsea Girls is, on the
one hand, a perfect depiction—we can approximate an understanding of LSD even
if we have never experienced it. Yet, on the other hand, it is a total failure.
Eric struggles with language, finding it ever limiting and stilted. (“I groove
on the easiest words to say,” he tells no one in particular. “But it doesn’t
even have to be said.”) The lights flicker and the camera wavers, distracted.
No one can ever see or feel what Eric felt.
The works in the show each propose a
unique approach to this problem. They examine and describe the limits of
subjective perception, using art as a bridge between the singular body and the
communal one. They may not ever really cross that bridge, but we feel that this
is beside the point. What is important is not where you end up, but how you got
“Eric’s Trip” is
on view at Lisa Cooley Gallery, New York, June 28th–Aug. 1st, 2014.