"Artists don't necessarily need galleries right now; they can use Etsy or eBay; they can actually have a whole business run out of their home," says Michael Cuffe, editor-in-chief of Warholian.com and curator of "Warhol Reimagined: The New Factory," which opens tonight at Project One.
Cuffe's first show is just what the title suggests: He and assistant director Lyrica Glory invited 29 local artists to choose one of about 70 of Warhol's most famous images to reinterpret. They asked another 32 artists -- most of them local but some from around the country -- to create renditions of Warhol's well-known Campbell's soup cans.To look at the wall of can renderings -- each measuring 9 by 12 inches -- is to see Warhol in reverse. Whereas the Pop Art icon dealt in stylized and excessively repeated images that had become ubiquitous, this collection of soup cans is a celebration of aesthetic diversity and individuality. In Warhol's soup cans we saw a different version of an item from daily life. In "Warhol Reimagined" we see a change not in the object, but in the subject. Many of the works comment not only on the relationship between Warhol's art and American society, but also on the ways in which the passage of time has affected the ideas he inspired (or captured). His iconic portrait of Marilyn Monroe, for example, in the hands of an artist known as noa-, become a decrepit, comic-book-like heroine who might have turned into a zombie. The image survives, haunts us, though the original meaning is not present. Put differently: This is where a lust for that image has brought us as a culture. Jessica Hess similarly updates a well-known image in Warholian Elvis Remix. She sets Warhol's screen-printed Elvis likenesses in front of graffiti, surrounded by white space, blocking a (presumably defunct) doorway. They simultaneously serve as intermediary between the tagged wall and a replication of Jeremy Novy's sidewalk-art koi fish.
"Appropriation is at an all time high, where artists are borrowing from the world around them and from each other," Cuffe says.
For an example look no further than Shepard Fairey - whose images rival Warhol's in their repetition and ubiquity.
Cuffe says San Francisco's current group of artists tend to support one another, and "right now there's not an artist or gallery owner you'll talk to that doesn't feel some sort of energy being generated."
He also cites a fundamental change in the mentality of gallery owners. As Cuffe says, there is "a small new group of gallery owners who are like, 'Do whatever you want, we'll sell it.' And that's what art's all about."
Project One gallery director Brooke Waterhouse says: "Our main focus is to invite all the different communities in the neighborhood to share this space." Justin Giarla, who owns White Walls, The Shooting Gallery, and 941Geary, added, "I like working with artists that inspire me. I like working with artists that I'm intrigued by. I like working with artists who I become friends with that I work really well with and I like to work with them continuously over and over again."
This new and open attitude encourages artists to experiment as they express themselves. The future may not be certain, but it's worth figuring out, and organizations like Warholian.com promote this style of forward thinking.
"Warhol Reimagined: The New Factory" runs through April 19 at Project One. Tonight's opening reception starts at 7. Admission is free.