Gavin Turk: 'Me as Him'
Gavin Turk: 'Me as Him'
Opening: Monday 2 July 6pm
Expo: Tuesday 3 July 10-6pm
Monday 16 July
Gavin Turk special live oxidisation performance
Live Oxidization 'Piss' Painting
Throughout history artists have used their own body fluids, urine particularly,
to make work. Gavin Turk will pay homage to Warhol paying homage to Jackson
Pollock in this very special live oxidization evening. Picasso was known to
urinate on his 'found' sculptures at Vallauris, Pollock would urinate on paintings
which were on their way to dealers he didn't like.
Turk will make links back and forwards to art history, a complement to the
current exhibition which along with the Hardy Blechman camouflage installation
will be open and on view from 6 until 9pm.
This is a Riflemaker free event so please come early.
Gavin Turk arrives at Riflemaker, Tuesday 3 July 2007
A circle must begin somewhere. As the creative ribbon unwinds, it sets off
a sequence of events involving artist, patron, viewer, recorder and installer.
Thoughout this unravelling, perceived meaning and quality, the way in which
a work is viewed and valued, will change. The influence of those who come into
contact with it and the effect they have on the work will determine how it
appears, how we react to it and, eventually, what it actually is.
Through the interception of the creative mind - the upsetter - at any point
within this chain, assumptions about the role of originator and receiver may
also alter, or reverse. Any of these creative role-players may swap positions.
Their actions may be transformed into subject-matter itself. The Mona Lisa
is beyond qualitative assessment. It is 'great' because generations have found
it so. The portrait's setting, the rope around it, the bullet-proof glass,
the crowds outside and the promise of the painting's reality before our very
eyes, make us want to experience it. We understand that the Mona Lisa is indeed
both sitter and Artist, subject and object, A and B, but we don't really care,
as long as what we're looking at is the real thing - as long as it's 'authentic',
'mythical' and most importantly, priceless.
Authorship and signature is all. The back of the painting as valuable, as viable,
as the front; obverse and reverse, in the language of coinage. Who did it.
Did what exactly ? Created the work... or the myth ? What you see is what
you get at entry point, but it may not be what you get after time. People don't
fire 'blanks' anymore. Everyone, not just the Artist, wants to have an effect,
invent/re-invent, promote, distort, sabotage. Thus, time's ribbon will change
both the perception and result of the fireball in the event chain - and it
will change us.
Gavin Turk is the Upsetter. In Me as Him, he is maker, master, subject, sitter,
giver, receiver and observer. Present at all points in the circle, affecting
all parts of the process. A process during which the use and placement of that
which is created, the willing objet d'art, may in fact end up being the Art,
just as much as the real art itself - a layering known as installation, interior
design or architecture.
But the Artist is not the only one who receives 'the spark'. The Receiver may
yet steal the badge Artist, for it is he who notices and understands, makes
fire, acts upon that flicker of intent; that gold thread which needs reception,
perception and enhancement to make it live - to make it 'really real', or in
Turk's case, really and truly artificial. The Receiver gets an idea noticed.
He brings it to life so that other creators and noticers may act upon and benefit
from it. In this life, this day and age, in and out of context, in this 'mash';
perception, placement and enhancement really are everything.
Gavin Turk's visual remixes fall neatly into a creative circle, or 'circuit',
within his own work and the rewind and fast forward of his particular reel.
In Me as Him, Turk (b.1967 Guildford) turns his gaze toward the most celebrated
and celebrity-obsessed figure in contemporary art. A figure whose aims and
methods we know - or think we know. The final self-portraits of Andy Warhol
- artist, celebrity, svengali, master-Upsetter - exhibited in London in 1986,
provide the visual template for Turk to appropriate in a new suite of screenprinted
canvases. The subject is originality, authorship and the marketable identity
of the Artist - the Artist in question being both Warhol and Turk himself.
Gavin Turk's rough mix of arrogance and self-effacement has been at the heart
of his work since the beginning. In his RCA degree show the artist unveiled
a completely empty studio except for a ceramic blue-plaque affixed to the wall,
announcing the fact that 'Gavin Turk worked here 1989-91'. Turk was denied
his degree. The Artist ignited his best, most personal spark. Hardly anyone
From this untimely, early demise, Turk has fashioned for himself a career on
the subject of fame, the myth of authorship and what it is to be an Artist.
Like a sophisticated 'tribute' band, he has replayed Art's Greatest Hits in
homage to the 'creative personality' where invention, endlessly refashioned
and imitated, becomes cliché. Those who have played host to 'Gav' along the
way include Sid Vicious (inhabiting Warhol's Elvis pose), Ché Guevara and David's
Marat. His remix partners have been De Chirico, Klein, Manzoni and Duchamp
in a series of works covering virtually every medium.
In the present work, Turk portrays the over-celebrated superstar as Warhol
did, with affection and wonder, and, like Warhol, he is only interested in
'household names'. As society becomes infatuated with the idea of fame for
fame's sake, it is especially timely that Turk should now take on 'Andy', staring
out of the master's final likeness, the camouflage-patterned 'fright-wig' paintings
premiered at Anthony d'Offay's gallery in London 1986, just months before the
The above-mentioned are all egoistic, rebellious, quasi-revolutionary figures,
both revered and notorious. The work of these artists exists partly to cause
a sensational response. In the case of Warhol, the self-portraits replay elements
the artist had 'copyrighted' before; a personal way of doing things that has
since become cliché in the hands of those paying tribute to the Factory style.
The grey-green wash underneath stars and stripes red and blue. The fascination
with camouflage, an illusion and rendering developed for the purpose of distortion
and loss of identity, rather than the vagaries of fashion and 'being noticed'
- the way in which the pattern is used today. Lastly, the subject's fixated
stare and the tight, no-frills composition. The very idea of self-portaiture
suggests a 'stamper' approach; passport fotos, postage-stamps, mugshots and
banknotes. ID itself is literally a 'pose', the creation of a personal uniqueness
nowadays jargonised as 'branding'. Just as Warhol utlised his hooped Picasso
shirt, his shades, his wig, his ever present camera to make a instant easy-to-use
cartoon out of his own complex reality.
As Turk takes up residence within the Master's image, the result is a deluxe
re-making and re-layering which reverses the intended purpose by refashioning
the cliché into something genuinely 'artificial' and therefore, at the other
end of the circle, daringly 'original'.
The request for Andy's 1986 self-portraiture came from the exhibitor. In the
mid-1980s no gallery in London could rival the mix of gravitas and glamour
of the d'Offay operation. Anthony d'Offay had been planning his Warhol show
for at least five years. "One of my ambitions at the time was to do a Warhol
exhibition in London, and I started to go regularly to visit Andy in New York.
When I asked him what type of show he would like to do, he would just say: "Whatever
you like . . ." (1)
"We visited a collector friend who had a powerful red portrait of Beuys by
Andy hanging in his house. As I looked at the painting I realised two things;
first that without question Warhol was the greatest portrait painter of the
20th century, and secondly that it was many years since he had made an iconic
"I visited him in New York and suggested a series of new self-portraits. A
month later he had a series of images to show me in all of which he was wearing
the now famous 'fright-wig'. One had not only a demonic aspect but reminded
me more of a death-mask. I felt it was tempting fate to choose this image so
I settled instead on a self-portrait with an hypnotic intensity. We agreed
on the number of paintings and that some would have camouflage. When I returned
to New York some weeks later the paintings were complete. The only problem
was that Warhol had painted the demonic 'Hammer House of Horror' image rather
than the one we had chosen. I remonstrated with him and reminded him of our
agreement. Without demur he made all the pictures again but with the image
we had first selected. So between us we brought two great series of self-portraits
into the world. (2)
"We had enormous press coverage, lots of TV. He came over for five days. It
was fantastic. There were security guards and people asking him to sign their
underwear . . ." (1)
A superstar architect for a superstar patron
Mrs Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller was certainly a superstar patron. President
of the Museum of Modern Art and the wife of John D. Rockefeller III, Mrs Rockefeller
intended her Guest House, designed by Philip Johnson, as a place for social
gatherings and as a private art gallery.
It is fitting that the most recorded photograph of a Warhol 'fright-wig' should
be that taken in the Guest House, a narrow symmetrical glass construction just
one room wide, wedged between two much taller townhouses at East 52nd St in
midtown Manhattan. A superstar canvas in a superstar house by a superstar architect.
Like a staircase of fame, Gavin Turk's remakings complete a cycle moving outwards
and inwards simultaneously. But the line or 'ripple' actually begins with Johnson.
Andy's robin-red ink radiates though the reflective glass surfaces as the screenprinted
canvas hangs majestically in the residence which has become a permanent fixture
in coffee-table books on modernity and the International Style.
Like Warhol and Turk, Philip Johnson (b. 1906, Cleveland, d.2005, New Canaan,
Conn) was an outsider. The enfant terrible of architecture, obsessed with fame
and the only American architect to trouble the gossip columnists. Like Warhol
and Turk he received mixed reviews, but like them, he was a populist and his
work could never be ignored.
Johnson was patron too. In 1964, the architect had commissioned Warhol's Most
Wanted Men series for the New York State pavilion he designed for the World's
Fair in Flushing Meadow. The work consisted of twenty-five panels, each measuring
48" by 48", from a 1962 poster of NYPD's "Most Wanted" criminals.
When Robert Moses (city planner, overseer of the urban development of New York's
parks and president of the World's Fair) objected to the work, Warhol had the
panels painted over with silver paint. The canvas versions were exhibited in
1967 at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris. In 1968, the exhibition travelled
to London and was shown at the Rowan Gallery. Moses (1888-1981), remembered
as the creator of modern New York, was eventually sacked by governor Rockefeller.
Commissioned in 1948, the Guest House had a distinguished history. The Rockefellers
donated the house to MoMA in 1955. It was then bought in 1964 by Robert C.
Leonhardt. For a time after Leonhardt's death in 1971, Johnson himself lived
in the house as a tenant ('71 - '79). Robert Symes, followed by Ronald S. Lauder
were the next owners, until Anthony d'Offay purchased it. It was later sold
at auction by Christie's. The house - at least as well known as its celebrated
keepers - was given landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission
in December 2000.
In the iconic photograph, the Warhol self-portrait sits perfectly with the
architect's lyrical symmetry. The swathes of red and black contrasting with
the opaque interior and clean lines of Johnson's mid-career masterpiece. Johnson
is pictured at his office by Arnold Newman, who specialized in photographing
his subjects enhanced by their work environment; Leonard Bernstein staring
out from empty orchestra seats, Stravinsky with Steinway, Pollock with industrial
paint pots, as if they would feel abandoned or unidentifiable without the tools
and props of their trade. Newman's own trademark self-portrait finds him amidst
banks of flashbulbs and reflectors.
Philip Johnson ate lunch daily at a special table in the corner of the Grill
Room of the Four Seasons restaurant. In the evenings, he was to be seen with
Andy at Studio 54, Halston's, or openings at MoMA or the Met. Johnson collected
art from an early age and had purchased a pair of Paul Klees directly from
the artist. At age twenty-six, he became the director of the Museum of Modern
Art's new Architecture & Design department and co-curated the influential exhibition
The International Style which introduced the American public to European Modernism
and the ideas of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. As a collector, he came
to specialize in contemporary work, especially the great figures of the Pop
era - Lichtenstein, Warhol, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella, whose works decorated
the walls of his office in the Seagram Building, the skyscraper he designed
with Mies, its principal architect.
Warhol and war
Andy Warhol (b.1928 Pittsburgh - d. 1987 New York) is far removed from the
idea of a war artist. Camouflage, his chosen tool, a powerful instrument of
war (from the French expression meaning 'a malevolent puff of smoke') is employed
to distort and disrupt when used in active combat. To break up the edges and
outlines of the human figure, to make tanks, aircraft and battleships difficult
to see. The 'disruptive pattern' (DPM) is there to lose identity, to disguise
and protect, but also to unify; turning battalions into sand, aircraft into
cloudy skies, battleships into crashing waves.
Loss of identity, decoration and the pure fun of re-colouring must have been
at the heart of Warhol's interest in these contours, blobs and dazzles, as
he made his brief debut as a camoufleur. With its artistic roots in Cubism
(Gertrude Stein said of the pattern, whilst referring to Picasso, "from Cezanne,
and him, came this !")* to Warhol's use of it as a hip, purely aesthetic look,
the patterns have changed little, though the meaning - association with protest
through its use in anti-Vietnam demonstrations, and with the renegade in society
- has become reversed. The acceptance of animalistic camouflage as everyday
apparel through its association with the rebel; de Niro in Taxi Driver, the
Unabomber, IRA and terrorist splinter groups, confirms its place as an enduring
fashion-statement over several decades.
The Gulf-War introduced unfamiliar, lighter colours, sand and stone, while
the designer Hardy Blechman (Maharishi), taking his lead from the cheap demobbed
clothing of the Army Surplus store, has produced dayglo tones, lurid Warholian
pinks and mauves in every combination, challenging both the accepted function,
and, because of its all-out oddness, again, reversing the original purpose.
Maharishi 'combat' trousers listed as 'Genuine Faulty' are sought-after items
on ebay. US designer Stephen Sprouse produced men's suits and ladies evening
wear using the Warhol pattern, having gained permission from Andy before the
But the hard-up student or street poseur does not don the contours in order
to lose identity or to blend in; he wears it to stand out, and the crazier
the crazee-colour the better. Warhol pre-empted this decades earlier, with
his full-on 'bad' mixtures of pink and yellow, blood-orange and red; challenging
accepted taste and accepted colour contrasts and co-ordination. Why not invest
in a camouflaged case for your iPod in cherry-pink and maroon, a camouflaged
tea-cup in grunge-brown and olive-grey, a toilet-seat in red, white and blue
? Even the Union Jack has been camouflaged, even the Queen has been camouflaged.
The 'trademark' itself having been disguised, the 'brand' commandeered, reconfigured
. . . enhanced, 'blended in'.
"You hit me with a flower . . ."
Sid Vicious never lived long enough to wear Maharishi combats. The subject
of Gavin Turk's iconic Pop sculpture, the Sex Pistol's bassist was only 21
years old when he overdosed at the Chelsea Hotel after murdering his girlfriend.
A victim of the fame game, Sid, to some the epitome of the punk aesthetic,
was undoubtedly an original - in that he was a copyist. A creation of Johnny
Rotten, Malcolm McLaren, the NME and the daily tabloids.
Visually, a Rotten/Lydon lookalike and actalike, he managed, in his short,
suitably 'rock'n'roll' existence, to do most of the things that were expected
of him. A pre-'Reality' era flavour for all of the anti-heroes who follow in
his footsteps. In the fields of music and fashion, the act of 'copying' or
simulation has become accepted practice. We buy from designer labels called
Fake London, the unreleased bootleg recording is more sought after than the
official release. Every luxury consumer item, from ragged Levi's to nicely
weathered Mies chairs, is promoted as either a copy, a 'perfect' fake, or the
real, 'real' thing itself; yes . . . certified, prime Vintage.
There have always been other practitioners, other artists, making their own
Warhols, using his multipicity and the familiarity of his work to offer a radical
critique. With the market hyperactive, Richard Pettibone's 'conceptual Pop'
replicas and Louise Lawler's installation photographs of signature works in
museum displays and collectors' homes, make us consider originality and enhancement.
The original copyist though was Elaine Sturtevant (b.1930 Lakewood, Ohio).
Having identifed Warhol's greatness early on, no sooner had Andy begun making
Flower paintings (1964), than Sturtevant was duplicating them - the artist
even gave her his discarded screens. Sturtevant duplicated works by Lichtenstein,
Jasper Johns and even a video performance by Paul McCarthy. All this extra
product fills in the gaps - if Andy left any. It makes more product, pads the
myth, buffs up the market and, of course, makes both the copies and the originals
more valuable, more 'unique'.
Not so great
Andy Warhol died on Sunday 22 February 1987, seven months after the d'Offay
show, while undergoing routine surgery on his gall-bladder. The artist's estate
was valued at over half a billion dollars. The Warhol Foundation contested
this figure and it was eventually reduced to 8 million. It was to the Foundation's
advantage to have a lower evaluation of Warhol's paintings as it meant they
would pay less in legal fees to the attorney for the estate who was on a percentage
of 2.5% of the value of the estate. Also, the Foundation was legally obliged
to award 5% of its assets for charitable grants and a lower valuation meant
that they would have to pay out less money.
In order to back up their legal challenge for a lesser evaluation, the Foundation
argued in court that Warhol was not as great an artist as some independent
experts believed him to be. Art dealer André Emmerich testified for the Foundation
that Warhol's work was likely to fade into obscurity because the subjects of
his paintings, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis etc, would soon be forgotten... (3)
New York 1963. "Warhol's most important associate" (New York Times)
Andy met his assistant and facilitator Gerard Malanga on June 9, 1963. The
student had been suggested by Charles Henri Ford to help Andy with his screenprinting.
Malanga, a dancer on Alan Freed's Big Beat television show, was out of work
due to the show having been closed down when Freed was busted in a payola scandal.
The two came together at a poetry reading at the New School. Malanga (b.1943,
New York), who had spent the summer of 1962 silkscreening neckties in the garment
district, began working for Andy for the state minimum wage of .25 an hour.
His poetry had appeared in Paris Review, Partisan Review, Poetry and The New
Yorker prior to meeting Warhol. After working for Warhol for almost a year,
he decided not to go back to college for his final term. According to Gerard,
in his book Archiving Warhol, the first painting he silkscreened for his boss
was a 40" x 40" silver Elizabeth Taylor (Silver Liz). In 1985, Malanga was
appointed by Henry J. Stern, Commissioner of NYC Department of Parks & Recreation,
as that agency's first photo archivist, in charge of the Robert Moses historic
negative collection, which he single-handedly conserved and catalogued.
As Warhol's contoured screens are overlaid onto Gavin Turk's impenetrable expression,
exactly where the curves fall and their colour alters that expression. As every
portrait painter knows, the merest flicker or shadow which trespasses across
the line of the mouth changes the psychological demeanour and the perceived
intellectual capability and intention of the subject, injecting a coyness,
slyness or arrogance, an innocence or malevolence, that wasn't present before.
A further reason why the badge of camouflage is chosen by the outsider, the
campaigner, the martyr. This often negligible but noticeable change is the
main figurative action and emotional result of Turk's random placement of DPM
onto his self-portrait, clouding and masking the anaemic demigod as he emerges
Kurtz-like from the darkness.
British photographer David McCabe was contacted in early 1964 by Andy Warhol
after the artist had seen a layout by the young photographer in the pages of
Mademoiselle. McCabe (b.1940 Leicester) was assigned the task of documenting
the artist's life for a whole year. Some 2500 photographs later, McCabe had
succeeded in capturing Andy at art openings, psychedelic happenings, drinking
his morning coffee at the diner around the corner and working on the first
Flower paintings in his studio with Malanga. McCabe photographed Warhol in
Philip Johnson's New Canaan glass house when Andy visited in the winter of
1964/5 and briefly appeared as a photographer in Warhol's film Kitchen.
1964-'65 was a crucial year in Warhol's career. Living by night and sleeping
by day on Seconal or 'reds', this was the time when the perception of him and
who he was, his 'creative image', started playing a major role in the construction
of his legend. McCabe's photographs, never used by Warhol, appeared some forty
years later in the book A Year In The Life of Andy Warhol (Phaidon 2003). Unseen
and unfamiliar, they constitute an astonishing documentation of Warhol's life
during that inventive and productive period.
By chance, I found myself a participant in the event chain. Invited to the
d'Offay opening by Andy's assistant Anthony Fawcett, I occupied the role of
mere observer. The self-portraits, and the Artist himself, appeared very differently
to me that day to how I view them now. The paintings seemed cold, stark, knocked-off
and, for some reason, atypical; the work of a dimmed intelligence, a machine
with the power turned off. Today I see them as warm, sun bright, electrified;
truly magical, quintessentially typical works. At the dinner afterwards, the
hosts made sure that every guest got five minutes to sit next to Andy and 'chat',
as they described it. When my time came, Warhol was indeed chatty, as he admired
my shirt, discussed the menu, regaled me with stories about the Factory (yes
really) . . . and spent a few moments drawing on a greetings card for my sister's
Like a small repertory group, these characters or 'players' have a mutual effect
on one another. Working together or sabotaging each others plans. They are
egotists; specialists in different areas, wanting to make their mark, taking
control or denying it - even the observer relates his story. These interceptors
are keen to honour but eager to add their layer onto the original work. Like
a software update which promotes itself as an enhancement but may turn out
to be non-compatible.
Turk's use of Andy's 'stamper' or screen; his innate understanding and remixing
of the elements, the patronage of Johnson, the collaboration with Malanga,
the guiding influence of d'Offay, and the recording of McCabe - all enable
us to see Warhol, his work and his effect, in many different lights. In a way,
these collaborators turn the light on. But the common link, common 'affection',
between Turk and Warhol is their keen sense of humour. An attractive mix of
self-deprecation and boldness. The shy kid pushing himself forward, submerging
and self-promoting at the same.
Andy kept his wig on throughout his hospital stay, including during the operation
itself. After his death, a mass was held for him at St. Patrick's Cathedral
on April 1st, April Fool's Day.
"He got subsumed from the early 1970s by too many people with too many ideas
of their own . . ."
Gerard Malanga, The Guardian (Wednesday February 6, 2002)
Gavin Turk's Me as Him explores the circle of creation. The Artist's journey
from A to B and back. It references the truly immortal, celebrates the sponsor
and the saboteur, reverses the original - opens at Riflemaker Monday 2 July
* 'Sphere' Magazine, 1918, Imperial War Museum, London.
(1) The Guardian, 4 February 2002, interview with Leo Hickman
(2) Letter from Anthony d'Offay to Deitmar Elger, Feb 17, 2004
A Riflemaker exhibition curated by Virginia Damtsa & Tot Taylor. Special thanks
to Gerard Malanga, David McCabe and Anthony d'Offay.
A Riflemaker book 'Me as Him' is published to co-incide with the exhibition
Book designed by Julian Balme at Vegas. 'Turk's Rondo' text by Tot Taylor.
The Rockefeller Guest House was designed by Philip Johnson (in association
with Landis Gore and Frederick C. Genz, Architects) 1949-1950. Philip Johnson
was also the architect of the Seagram Building and the first extension of MoMA.
He was the first person to coin the phrase 'The International Style'. Following
his death in 2005 the New Canaan Glass House was opened to the public, www.philipjohnsonglasshouse.org
We are deeply indebted to:
Jay Jopling/White Cube, Irene Bradbury, Kristina Lindell, Miho Umiho, Lucy
Wilson at Theresa Simon Communications, Nat Foreman at Phaidon, Redferns, ArcAid,
Getty Images, Rex Features.
All Gavin Turk images courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube, London
Gavin Turk: 'Collected Works 1989–93' S. Bill and A. Wilson: (London, 1994)
Gavin Turk: 'Collected Works 1994–98' J. Compston and A. Farquharson: (London,
Sensation: Exhibition catalogue, (Royal Academy, London 1997)
Andy Warhol: 'Warhol Self-Portraits' ed.Dietmar Elger (Hatje Cantz 2004)
David Dalton & David McCabe, 'A Day In The Life Of Andy Warhol' (Phaidon 2003)
Andy Warhol: 'The Philosophy of Andy Warhol - From A to B and back again' (San
Philip Johnson: 'The Architect In His Own Words', Hilary Lewis and John O'Connor
Philip Johnson: 'Life and Work', Franz Schulze (University of Chicago Press
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro (Alfred
A. Knopf 1974)
Gerard Malanga: 'Archiving Warhol' (Creation Books, London 2002)
Gerard Malanga: 'Up from the Archives' (Sub Rosa CD SR170) 1999. www.gerardmalanga.com
Disprutive Pattern Material: An Encyclopedia of Camouflage', Hardy Blechman
(Firefly Books 2003)
False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage, Roy R. Behrens’ (Bobolink