Sunday, February 15, 2009

Actual Size


Andy Warhol's Small Campbell's Soup Can (1962), a recent gift from LACMA supporter and former Gagosian director Robert Shapazian, has gone on view at BCAM. The subject — namely, tomato — is identical to LACMA's other soup can, a larger 1964 painting donated by screenwriter-turned-ad-exec Robert Halff.
Warhol's first solo show was at L.A.'s Ferus Gallery, in 1962. It consisted of 32 Soup Cans. That group is now at the Museum of Modern Art. Each is 20 inches high, the can filling the frame. Warhol repeated at least some varieties. The Eli Broad collection has a 1962 Manhattan Clam Chowder, essentially identical to MOMA's, and the unique Torn Pepper Pot, one of Warhol's most admired works. (Both the Broad soup cans are installed adjacent to LACMA's.) The Shapazian painting is another creative variation from that amazing year of 1962. The can is about actual size and sits small in the picture plane (like MOMA's Gold Marilyn Monroe, also from 1962, the year of Monroe's death.)
Two years later Warhol revisited the soup cans. The images were near-identical, the size larger (36 inches high), and the format somewhat narrower. The Halff painting is from this later, less-prized, production.
Warhol, on why he painted Campbell's soup: "I used to drink it. I used to have the same lunch every day, for twenty years, I guess, the same thing over and over."
Shapazian, on why he quit Gagosian Gallery: "I'm not an art dealer any more. I sit around, a crate comes in, I see who the crate's from, I go to the waiting list, I make up this outrageous fucking number and send it out."

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