ANTIPASTO: Tribute to Andy Warhol for Little Electric Chair 1964
Antipasto is a large scale art project consisting of numerous photographic pieces as well as performance and sculptural work. This venture is a daring new addition to Adamo’s ongoing exploration of the 3D Event, sculpture as occurrence, anti-sculpture and how it relates to the vanishing object in time, and the resonant image in the mind that remains.
People whom Adamo considers important contributors to the treasury of culture, and who have defined our time have been selected to participate in this project. His list is comprised of a cross-section of artists, actors, writers, pop culture icons, film directors, designers, and musicians. Adamo holds a deep respect for these individuals and a merited esteem for their maverick work. Their involvement consists of answering one simple question, for the purposes of inspiring a piece of art which would depict an image that would represent an aspect of their being and an expansion of the approach to portraiture.
Adamo seeks to suggest and investigate a different aspect or conceptual point of view, extrapolating insight into what an individual's favorite things consist of when placed under the most dreaded of circumstances. Directed by such principles as "we are what we eat” and “we become what we consume", this project explores the reality that what we consume can determine our fate: it can, in essence, be fatal. Every such portrait depicts an aspect, character, allure, or unacquainted discovery about that particular individual.
The assembled replies to this question will be utilized to distill individual interpretational art pieces from this point of view.
If you were an institutionalized prisoner on death row and granted any meal of your choice, what would your last supper be?
Posed in a position of utmost detriment, this question becomes a single moment of levitation in the midst of deep despair.
The concept of motion and evolution examined through Adamo’s art is symbolic of the human condition. Every individual's state of being changes significantly during the course of one single day, due to the evolutionary nature of the human psyche and the constant adaptation to environment and mood. As a result, what one considers palatable in the morning does not necessary appeal in the afternoon or evening. The route traced by these transitions is what Adamo refers to as a "drill".
This is the nature of the question posed to the individuals invited to participate in this project. Adamo has cast the question as what he calls "a duplex drill", juxtaposing the setting of a most horrific predicament with the demand of the individual to think of their favorite things. Duplex drill is one of his conceptualized processes by which he conceives art and content. This method consists of the notion of two simultaneous signals being transmitted from opposing directions causing a parallel or antiparallel surge of one’s mental state, challenging the individual with handling opposite sensations at the same time while ultimately having to discern which is the more suitable at that particular moment. A language thus develops that equates with the human physical being and its experiences in interaction between reality, memory, and our volatile needs.
Adamo’s technique Jahrfish explores contamination as an aggressive method wherein components are broken down to provide raw material for an alchemical process, reassembled within a new composition. Similar to how nothing is wasted in nature and through the process of decay all is reinvented, all elements are broken down in this artistic process to be reassembled in a different fashion. This brings light to a different perspective, as the overall plot or surface may appear dissimilar but the nuances of origin yet lie beneath, locked in as DNA encoding. Thus, a different reality is displayed which hints at its rooted origins.
The advantage of this process allows a wide range of interpretational variables, functioning as a slide rule where the control of style, pitch and texture is left open to affect context. Color, tone, mood, and most important attitude affect a shift in adaptational representation, resulting in a different form of figuration or disfigurement, with cultural references and history serving as raw material for this new contextual language and perspective. This metaphorical deconstruction and reassembly is similar to Cubist or Dadaist art, which presents a normal scene from multiple points of view with objects broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form. Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context.
By its nature, a project that commemorates Andy Warhol would have to involve or reference the impact of popular culture, the concept of celebrity, and the ramifications of an individual’s presence within a social context or venue. Warhol was one with the people socially, and they featured as subject matter of his infamous numerous portraits. Andy Warhol’s artwork epitomized the prevailing cultural and moral spirit of the time. He reflected and influenced society by being at its center, although he often said that he felt apart from life. It is rare for an artist to become a celebrity, but Andy Warhol experienced much more than his fifteen minutes of fame and became an icon of his generation. In this achievement we see two elements working in conjunction with each other, and the question is raised: Who made whom greater, the artist being ornamented by the celebrity, or the celebrity further popularizing themselves through Andy's visibility? It seems both were needed and worked well together to define a fascinating pop culture in the era of the 60's through the 80's.
Little Electric Chair, one of Warhol's most powerful works, was created in 1964. The Last Supper, the timeless masterwork by Leonardo da Vinci painted in 1495-1498, is yet another icon that resonates within society. The celebrities of pop culture, Little Electric Chair, and The Last Supper share an equilateral common denominator as iconic elements. Each relates strongly to the powerful resonating image as cultural architecture, and illustrates how culture and history are ingrained in popular society. Works such as these become the basis from which we draw identity, as these images serve to construct sculpture within the mind, filling up the ambivalent nature of transparent time.
Creativity and process cannot occur in a vacuum. A mental and physical arena must be determined in which the challenge will take place. This area is termed Chasm. Once this is devised, the motivation is to fill it with the content. Two equally iconic works, Little Electric Chair and The Last Supper, are placed on a vertical axis in this defined space, with empty space between them. Two masses of celebrity portraits are placed on the horizontal axis, also with empty space between them. Two divisions of the space are thereby formed. The two separated cells in a vertical orientation and the two separated cells in a horizontal orientation create a cross chasm. A sculptural spine is thus at the center core of this division, a concrete median that binds the four entities into a governing unit. A trajectory is created between the metaphysical split of a parent cell into two identical daughter cells, resulting in a four-post forum.
Each celebrity participant in this project contributes specific elements that will dictate the limitations as to what can be used to create an art piece, similar to how figurative portraiture is ordered by the individual's facial or body features. Collectively, each meal as described by the participants will function as base nutrients needed to sustain the cell as a single unit, as each platter will have a unique contribution. These nutrients come together to function as a complex unified entity, where the intricate components and details are observed through the magnified lens of the work.
The electric chair has been deliberately chosen as an essential element of this Duplex Drill. Introduced in the United States in 1888, it was considered more a humane method of execution than hanging. The procedure to kill the condemned is as follows: after being tied to the chair, moistened copper electrodes are fixed to the head and a leg, which have been previously shaven to ensure a good adhesion. Death by cardiac arrest and respiratory paralysis are caused by powerful electrical discharges, applied at short intervals. By order of the executioner, an electrician introduces the current for two minutes and eighteen seconds, changing the voltage from 500 to 2000 volts (otherwise the sentenced would burn). The procedure causes ravaging visible effects: the prisoner sometimes jumps forward against the restraints, he urinates, defecates or vomits blood, internal organs are burnt, there is smell of burnt flesh. Though the first discharge of electricity ought to render the sentenced unconscious, this sometimes does not happen; often internal organs keep working, so that further discharges are needed.
This infamous chair possesses great charisma. The simple mention of the term arrests all and gathers complete attention. Irregardless of subjective opinion, it authorizes fervent emotions as though a mystifying royal throne of a monarchy. Its visual presence is just as dense and haunting. It emits an ultra-powered charge within the psyche that affects all emotionally, morally, and spiritually, rendering each to an empty dumbfounded state, as its function is sought out to accomplish. Due to this astonishing quality and function it has inevitably created reverse effects. The power of this symbol has transformed prisoners into celebrities, celebrated those who have sat in it, and has been frequently featured in cinema and mass media. The cult of celebrity causes the criminal and the crimes to resonate in time. Ironically, the chair has also created the anti-celebrity, as by bringing the cult of celebrity to bear upon the sentenced, the innocent victims and their names are lost and forgotten. The media attention paid to the convicted crimes glorifies them as artistry born of originality, creating a horrific magnetism through brutal acts against and upon humanity.
Marvels occur constantly in nature, for the fortunate ones in the right place at the right time present to see and record them. These are typically site-specific occurrences, whereas the visual arts constitute staged occurrences. Like the visual arts, the scene of human culture is not a natural occurrence: it is a staged 3D Event.
Sculpture is an ephemeral three-dimensional occurrence with or without movement, located at a specific point, which conjures up atemporal art. Sculptural pieces are created with or without character performances, similar to a movie set. Adamo then directs how it will be captured on camera. The result is photographic material conceived by the event, as this idea relates to a happening aesthetic in time. What vanishes is the actual temporal sculpted scene. Adamo describes this practice as anti-sculpture.
This staged, specific sculpture becomes an anthropological seed which will be sown for later harvest, making it the future object of study both of its origin, the act of its creation. This is the event object. To refer to the fictions that we enjoy in the privacy of our imagination as "staged" is to remind us of the communal source of these as of all representations. These fictions appear suddenly like a flash mob, expressing a specific need publicly in a very short time period and then dispersing or dissipating quickly. These staged moments function like a human body: the nervous system originates a message, which becomes a mandate for the body to comply with a specific call, or succumb to the consequences.
Who is hosting whom? The artist or the celebrity, the chair or condemned, the media or the crime, the sculpture or the event? These icons split within the crossroads of ANTIPASTO.