The Aspen Art Museum’s Andy Warhol Inquiry does just about everything an art exhibit can do to express Warhol’s creative vision – showing the most important work, contextualizing it with ephemeral and biographical exhibits, highlighting highlighting lesser-known or neglected aspects of his practice and generally opening viewers to look to new ways of seeing the artist.

But one of the most important aspects of Warhol’s groundbreaking production is also his most fleeting – the multimedia events he designed and staged as “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” in 1966 and 1967 with the Velvet. Underground and other artists.

Can it be recreated? The museum is trying.

His “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”, designed by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, is a dark room lit by spinning disco balls and filled with projections and audio of the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” performances in a room filled with inviting bean bags. viewers to soak up the experience. The multi-channel video is playing on all four walls – you’ll hear the Velvet Underground and Nico and see Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga and Barbara Rubin.

But can it capture what the real experiences were, with their light shows, strobe lights, slides and movie projections and with the Velvets playing stronger interpretations of their stunning compositions? Maybe a few pieces, and probably not something like the real thing. Still, sitting there can spark the imagination, a worthwhile endeavor.

“These events represent Warhol’s epiphany moment and remain his greatest work,” former Warhol museum director and curator Mark Francis said of these “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” events, “as difficult as it is. or for us to feel their flavor today “.

It all started in April 1966 when Warhol rented a community center on St Mark’s Place in the devastated East Village of Manhattan and began to create a nightlife environment for artists and performers in his fertile pop art kingdom. The brief run that followed, there and on college campus tours, followed Warhol’s miraculous creative collision of meeting the Velvets in late 1965.

The collaboration has been recreated and reiterated in numerous books and films, including Todd Haynes’ incisive new documentary “The Velvet Underground,” which attempts to recreate the aesthetic of those early shows.

“As far as I can imagine… it was all happening because we were really interested in everything that was going on,” Warhol said of the must-see experiences at The Factory and on “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. “The Pop idea, after all, was that anyone could do anything, so naturally we would all try to do anything.”

Of course, the cold space of a museum gallery will never replicate what it must have been during these quirky and wild events. If they did, it would actually be a lot more uncomfortable than what’s going on in the basement gallery of the Aspen Art Museum.

“It’s tricky,” Warhol biographer Black Gopnik said in a recent telephone interview. “I think my complaint about this is that they can never go up to 11 amps in a museum. One very important thing about the Velvet Underground is that they always turned the amplifiers up to 12. It was incredibly loud, with incredible amounts of feedback. It’s just very difficult to recreate that in the polished spaces of contemporary museums.


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Museums and historic sites published on December 22, 2021

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