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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Andy Warhol's Polaroids Capture the Famous, Infamous, and Obscure

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Andy Warhol's Unidentified girl (blue t-shirt with teddy bear), 9/1979 - THE ANDY WARHOL CENTER FOR THE VISUAL ARTS
  • The Andy Warhol Center for the Visual Arts
  • Andy Warhol's Unidentified girl (blue t-shirt with teddy bear), 9/1979

Forty rare Polaroid photographs from Andy Warhol will be on display starting Friday (Jan. 27) at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Taken between 1970 and 1987 on an Big Shot camera, the selections in "Andy Warhol: Polaroids" include the megafamous (and infamous, in the case of San Francisco's own O.J. Simpson) alongside those whom Warhol bestowed a gift of more than 15 minutes. Polaroid is now in the digital business, like most other camera companies, but its instant film process was the precursor to the quick gratification of seeing an image almost right after taking it that the digital format provides.

How interminable those few seconds before the blackness of a Polaroid picture started coalescing into a colorful image used to seem, even though in some ways the devices were miles ahead of other conventional cameras. And shaking the print, as the hip-hop group Outkast would later suggest, didn't help a whole lot.

click to enlarge Andy Warhol's Billy Squier, 1982 - THE ANDY WARHOL CENTER FOR THE VISUAL ARTS
  • The Andy Warhol Center for the Visual Arts
  • Andy Warhol's Billy Squier, 1982

In some of the selections, as in the smoldering face displayed by 1980s rocker Billy Squier, the connection between shooter and subject is instant and obvious. In others, it is more abstract. But Warhol makes everyone look worthy of his artistic eye and attention.

Warhol's Polaroids were also building blocks to some of the full-scale portraits for which he is better known, so this is a rare chance to see his pop art's raw inspiration.

"Andy Warhol: Polaroids" continues through May 20 at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2626 Bancroft (at Telegraph), Berkeley. Admission is $7-$10.

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Tamara Palmer

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