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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Unseen Warhol

by Sarah Gentile

One of the joys as an archivist at an arts organization with a 150-plus-year history is seeing what has remained unseen for a long time. While working on the Leon Levy Digital Archives grant, we are processing photographs, video, audio, programs and ephemera that in some cases has been hidden for decades. Andy Warhol himself had a fascination with archives, going so far as to create his own version called Time Capsule 21, an art project consisting of more than 600 cardboard boxes full of ephemera from his daily life.

This fall, BAM will present Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films, a set of films never publicly shown, with accompanying music from rock icons Dean Wareham, Tom Verlaine, and Martin Rev, among others. It's not the first time Warhol's ties to rock were seen at BAM. In 1968, The Velvet Underground, the in-house band at Warhol's Factory, came to BAM for Merce Cunningham's opening night benefit. Warhol's helium-filled, mirrored, floating rectangles—what he called Silver Clouds—were also part of the New York premiere of Cunningham's RainForest, one of a set of eight performances featuring the work of composer John Cage and visual artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella. Then in 1989, Lou Reed and John Cale paid tribute to Warhol in the BAM-commissioned Songs for Drella, for which Warhol-inspired Campbell's soup cans and packets were created to give to the opening night audience. With the launch of the BAM archives website in 2016, expect to see more of these finds from BAM's history soon.

Excerpt from a 1968 Merce Cunningham BAM promotional mailing highlighting A Rock 
Dance; the Velvet Underground performed.

Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds, used in Merce Cunningham's dance RainForest at BAM in 1968 and again in 2011. Read more about the silver pillows here. Photo courtesy of Louie Fleck.

Soup swag from Songs for Drella, 1989. Read more about the soup here.

Andy Warhol at the 1986 BAM Next Wave Gala.

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