Fall Arts Preview: Vivid visions

Warhol's 'Screen Tests'; plus, graffiti owls and creepy machines
By GREG COOK  |  September 11, 2013


“What I liked was chunks of time all together, every real moment,” Andy Warhol wrote of his Screen Tests. They weren’t actually audition shots as Hollywood used the term, but silent “living portraits,” each one about 2 ¾-minutes long, the length of 100-foot roll of black-and-white film, but slowed down to last about four minutes.

In “Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests,” the RISD Museum (224 Benefit St, Providence, November 15 to May 11, risdmuseum.org) will continuously screen 20 of the more than 350 of these portraits that the Pop artist filmed between 1964 and ’66.

A young Bob Dylan stares into the camera, then at the floor, and scratches his head, seemingly trying to shake off boredom. Model and socialite Edie Sedgwick holds as still as she can save for the blinking of her big dark eyes. An old Salvador Dali, sporting his curled-up mustache, looks scared. A bearded, frizzy-haired Allen Ginsberg freezes. Lou Reed, in dark sunglasses that hide his eyes, drinks a bottle of Coca-Cola in the most badass, disreputable soda commercial ever.

The short films come from the time when Warhol was making marathon observational anti-movies, like his five-hour film of a friend sleeping and his eight-hour static shot of the Empire State Building. He showed the Screen Tests at parties and at Velvet Underground concerts, and included some in his campy narrative movies. Now they seem built for YouTube — just the right length, just intriguing enough, just enough celebrity to hold your attention.

The legend is that Warhol just turned the 16mm Bolex camera on and walked away — though what really went down was surely more stage-managed than that. “I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves,” Warhol wrote, “and I’d film them for a certain length of time and that would be the movie.”

Warhol’s films are just one of the shows worth checking out this fall. Some other art — including graffiti owls, creepy machines, and naked dudes on horseback — to have on your radar:

LESLIE BOSTROM: “MONSTER FLOWERS” | The Brown University professor’s expressionist paintings feel like confrontations with nature as giant flowers fill canvases eight feet wide. Around them elk walk out of forest fires, toy soldiers battle, a toddler examines a dead bird, and a cat’s eyes glow in the headlights of a Jeep. | September 19-October 9 | Chazan Gallery at the Wheeler School | 228 Angell St, Providence | chazangallery.org

STEVEN PESTANA: “PROLEGOMENON” | Circles and hexagons have served as mystical symbols in Pestina’s elegant, minimalist, geometric sculptures and installations of wood and stones and glass beads dangling at the end of chains. | September 19-October 11 | Grin | 60 Valley St #3, Providence | grinprovidence.com

ANDREW JACOB: “THIRD EYE AQUATIC” | Owls, waves, dragons, samurai, koi fish, and the occasional skull pop up in Jacob’s psychedelic, graffiti-inspired paintings. | September 21-October 19 | The Avenue Concept | 304 Lockwood St, Providence | theavenueconcept.com

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