Los-Angeles based Revolver Gallery, founded in 2012 by Canadian native and entrepreneur Ron Rivlin, has invited collectors, curators, gallerists, and art enthusiasts alike to experience theAndy Warhol Revisited: A Mirror For Today exhibit to the city of Toronto.
“Being a native of Toronto, the city holds a very special place in my heart. It is an important part of the person I am today, and I feel compelled to give back to Toronto with this exhibition,” said Ron Rivlin. “I want to share my passion for the importance of Andy Warhol’s work with my fellow Torontonians.”
Located in the city’s trendy Yorkville neighbourhood at 77 Bloor Street West, the museum quality exhibition will run for a six-month period and be open to the public daily from July 1 until December 31, 2015.
“In 2011, Ron acquired a work by Andy Warhol which was a print of Wayne Gritzky and then just immediately fell in love with how simple and how accessible the art was,” said Ryland Behrens, Director of Revolver Gallery. “And after that, he just began collecting and acquiring more work, acquiring more work, acquiring more work. Since that time, I think it has been something that has weighed heavy on Ron’s mind to bring a collection to Toronto.”
The exhibition features a selection of Warhol’s most iconic and recognizable pieces including portraits of Marilyn Munroe and Mick Jagger, as well as the artist’s nostalgic Campbell Soup Cans. Despite being able to immediately identify Warhol’s iconic pieces of art, and identify him as one of America’s greatest cultural assets, Ryland encourages us gallerists to think in the bigger picture, look outside of the United States, educate and share the beauty and the timelessness of Andy Warhol’s creative genius with as large of an audience as possible.
“When people think about Andy Warhol, they think about Marilyn Munroe, they think about the soup cans, which is great because those works are obviously iconic, but it’s not a full representation of the scope of his body of work,” he said. “So what we’re really trying to do is invite you with something familiar and then just rock you and turn you upside down on your ear, and present a selection of work that most people have never seen before.”
“You come into the exhibition and you don’t know quite what to expect,” he said mysteriously, while physiologically painting a picture upon arrival. “Immediately you’re greeted with something that is very iconic and what we’re doing essentially, is laying a foundation for visitors to the exhibition, something that they can latch on to; something that they’re familiar with as they navigate their way through the exhibition.”
With approximately 130 works of prints and paintings, Ryland explains the importance of the Andy Warhol exhibit coming to Toronto is to curate a quality exhibition where the efforts is to primarily focus on educating the people of Toronto on why Andy Warhol’s work is still relevant by ‘revisiting’ the artwork.
“One of the best ways that we could educate and provide something special to the people of Toronto is to be very calculated and selective of which works we were bringing out of our deepest collection, which is around 130 works including paintings and works on paper,” he said.
The exhibition provides an engaging and educational walkthrough of the development of Warhol’s artistic language and its greater effect on culture. It’s certainly more than just an art exhibit, according to Ryland, the director of Revolver Gallery, curating of the exhibition has been done in such a way that is both thematic and chronological in order to contextualize the artist’s trajectory and societal impact.
“We are curating this exhibition along fanatic chronological vectors; it’s not necessarily chronological in terms of how you flow through the exhibition, but there are pockets of time that are in very close proximity to each other,” he said.
“As you’re navigating through the exhibition, you’re greeted with The Queens from the Reigning Queens Series, Marilyn Munroe’s, a portrait of Jane Fonda; you work through a very feminine entry. Then you work your way through Cowboys and Indians, which is a very nostalgic Native American exploration as a subject. Then you move into the Socialite’s— billionaire philanthropists, real estate developers, etc.” Ryland thoroughly explained.
“Then we’re greeted with a dollar sign canvas painting, which is a fine example of Warhol’s axiomatic statement of the relationship between big art and big money— you’re coming out of the portraits of individuals with money and then you’re greeted with paintings exploring the dollar sign as the subject. That’s just one example of the exhibition, but that happens all over the place in terms of themes, and in terms of when the works were executed,” he continued.
In terms of sequestering the Socialite paintings in the back spoke volumes to the exhibitions overall layout. To have a portrait painted by Andy Warhol in the 70’s and 80’s carried incredible prestige and in many circles at the time, was considered the ultimate form of social validation. The men painted were respectable individuals that were members of the social elite. According to Ryland, what’s particularly interesting about those works and why they’re isolated is because the commission portraits during that era were essentially his bread and butter. The Socialite paintings were at the time, of individuals who had very bourgeois taste.
“We have a portrait of Jules Brassner of the Brassner family, a very important family within the world of the arts; and we have Jay Pritzker who is the founder of the Hyatt Hotel chain,” Ryland explained. “So we’re talking about very upper crust individuals and what’s interesting is that with these portrait paintings, these individuals were essentially granted an instantaneous immortality, and there is a timelessness with those works which is why they’re kind of sequestered by themselves.”
As an added fun fact, George Marciano from Montreal, the owner of Guess Jeans was also a member of Warhol’s Socialite painting collection, and what’s humorous is the gallery’s space was a Guess location prior to the demolition.
“It would serendipitously turn out that we had selected this space out of a few other choices that we had on the table, and we just happened to have that work in our collection— it’s quite humorous actually,” he said with an ever so slight smirk.
Tracing back to Warhol’s axiomatic theme of the relationship between big art and big money plays a huge role on his overall personality, lifestyle and aesthetic. Ryland noted that as educated gallerists and art enthusiasts, what’s important to realize is the just of the artist’s history. Andy Warhol came from a very, very poor background. He grew up destitute and for the large majority of his life, even when he was at the height of his success in the late 70’s, it’s safe to say he was still eating Campbell’s Soup every single day.
“I think he was a person of routine,” Ryland intuitively observed. “So in terms of really appropriating imagery from promo photos of other stars, I think that the Campbell’s Soup cans are unique in my opinion in that they’re pulling from something very sentimental to Andy Warhol’s life rather than looking outward for a subject matter to explore. I think that was a subject that had come personally from within, which is quite interesting.”
The Andy Warhol Revisited: A Mirror For Today exhibit was curated to educate people from some of Warhol’s iconic works and a selection of esoteric work. For instance, Warhol’s shadow painting from 1977 is a great example of Warhol’s work into abstraction, which did not happen too often. In addition, the gallery showcases Warhol’s still life paintings called, Committee 2000, which was also executed in the early 80’s. It was considered the investigation into the inflation between high art and low art, and the value of genre picture making. Essentially, the exhibition has been carefully calculated to give creative viewers, collectors, curators, gallerists, and art enthusiasts alike, the groundwork and expose those to works one has never seen before.
“In addition, we have a great rotating lecture series that we have also calculated; we’re pulling in art luminaries from the Greater Toronto Area and artists who have been exposed and are touched by Andy Warhol’s creative genius,” Ryland said. “They’ll experience Andy Warhol’s work with Canadian eyes, they’ll interpret that, digest it, and present it with a Canadian voice to further the exhibition program and educate people as to why his work is so relevant— so there’s that component to the exhibition as well.”