The word “selfie” wasn’t part of legendary artist Andy Warhol’s vocabulary during his lifetime, but he understood the concept. A new exhibition at California State University, Northridge will explore how his innovative Polaroid portraits and films have influenced the social media and self-facing culture of today.
Made possible through a gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation, “Polaroids, Photographs, and Films: Re-Viewing Andy Warhol’s Work in the Age of Social Media and Self Curating” will showcase 80 works, including Polaroid portraits, experimental films, unconventional photography and silk-screen prints. The exhibition runs Feb. 13 to March 26 at the CSUN Art Galleries and will launch with an opening reception from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, and a curator’s talk at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 15.
CSUN art professor Mario Ontiveros, curator of the show, said he was fascinated by how Warhol’s world was so similar to the world of today. Warhol, who once said, “A picture just means I know where I was every minute,” curated his life through his art.
“Warhol’s nonstop production of images of others is as much about portraiture as it is about the artist himself. Warhol’s practice was self-referential, or a form of self-making,” Ontiveros said. “With his cameras — Bolex, Big Shot, Minox, etc. — Warhol was doing a self-curating by documenting the world and the people around him. All of what he documented reflected his ability to connect with other people.”
The exhibition includes Warhol’s iconic, stark white Polaroid portraits featuring the famous and unknown people with whom he surrounded himself, such as Sylvester Stallone. It also includes his curious photos of inanimate objects and two of his films, “Empire” and “Sleep,” both documenting the innocuous and mundane moments of life.
Current technology and social media have created a self-curating, self-making culture that reflects the theme of the exhibition, Ontiveros said.
“Warhol’s Big Shot Polaroid camera was outward-facing. With inward-facing devices like smartphones and selfie sticks, the camera is pointed toward us,” Ontiveros said. “We constantly curate and ‘make’ who we are and the world around us through images and text. On social media, I can post anything from the meal I ate this morning to my view on politics. I can tweet that or post it on Instagram without ever having a face-to-face interaction. Even retweeting is a form of self-curating, because it exponentially links me to other people.”
Ontiveros said the show allows students an opportunity to admire Warhol’s work — and the artist himself fits the character of CSUN students.
“Warhol had this amazing work ethic — he was an illustrator, filmmaker, he published magazines, made silk screens, paintings, Polaroids, and black-and-white photographs,” Ontiveros said. “He reminds me of CSUN students, who work full time, go to school full time, who are curators, writers and photographers. It’s an interdisciplinary life. He took risks, experimented and allowed those things to be visible in the work he produced. That’s what our students are like.”
The CSUN Art Galleries are located on the north side of the university at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge. For more information on the exhibition, call 818-677-2226.