Relationships are just an extended game of strip poker in which you can spend years, even decades trying to fully undress a person – and there’s no guarantee you’ll win. The game is more about what’s unseen than what’s readily visible, in terms of both cards and skin. The plays aren’t the game.
Photography works the same way; people think it’s about the editing, about the photographer’s hand dodging light in a darkroom or pulling out the cyan in PhotoShop, but that’s not the whole truth.
No matter how much time you pass looking at the finished photographs of someone like Andy Warhol, you never know what he felt like in the darkroom until you lay eyes on his contact sheets – and for the first time, you get to peep at the side of his work that he kept for himself.
Contact Warhol: Photography Without End, a new show at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in California, draws on a trove of over 130,000 photographic exposures that the Cantor Arts Center acquired from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2014. The collection of 3,600 contact sheets and corresponding negatives represent the complete range of Warhol’s black-and-white photographic practice from 1976 until his untimely death in 1987.
The exhibition opens on September 29 and runs through January 6, 2019, and brings to life Warhol’s many interactions with the social and celebrity elite of his time with portraits of stars such as Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, and Dolly Parton; younger sensations in the art world such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat; and political stars, including Nancy Reagan, Maria Shriver, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Contact Warhol, curated by Stanford Professors Richard Meyer and Peggy Phelan, traces Warhol’s photography from the most fundamental level of the contact sheet to the most fully developed silkscreen paintings.
It’s the stripped version, and we’re all about seeing the stockings hit the floor.