artist perspectives

Artists Perspectives or 50 Ways to Love/Look at Brillo

 In 1964 one visitor upon seeing Andy Warhol's Brillo Boxes at the Stable Gallery questioned “Is this an art gallery or supermarket warehouse?" Since that time, as Paul Simon intoned the innumerable ways of breaking up in 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, the Brillo Boxes have spawned as many interpretations, yet many viewers often remain as puzzled as the jilted lover. As part of an ongoing series that presents fresh takes on Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, the museum invited the artists Amy Wilson and Kelly Klaasmeyer to create an installations inspired by this iconic work and its varied interpretations.

Supported by the Heinz Endowments Art Experience Initiative.

 

Amy Wilson: Brillo Box Outpost, 2006

 

“As someone who experiences most of the art she sees through reproductions, I have become quite used to seeing fine art juxtaposed with my life – a book left open to a certain plate may sit on top of my unmade bed and in a way become a part of it, in that it becomes impossible for me to see the art without seeing my blankets and pillows as well. Brillo Box Outpost is my way of doing the reverse of bringing my world into the rarified space of the museum by "infiltrating" the space with my characters, my words, and my obsessions, in the process re-envisioning the Brillo as a building block to construct a home for this little world of mine in this otherwise impersonal space.”

Amy Wilson
 

Kelli Klassmeyer: Postnatal Pile , 2007

 

“I was born several years after Warhol made the Brillo box. The version of Brillo steel wool pads that Warhol was mimicking was already obsolete by the time I was old enough to scrub pots. So the Brillo box was always an artwork, never a consumer product for me. But thanks to Warhol and the Brillo box, it’s easy for me (and my generation) to see consumer products as art objects. And it’s difficult to imagine the indignation that the Brillo Boxes originally provoked.

 Warhol’s Brillo Box has become an icon of 20th century art. It’s strange when an object that grew out of somebody goofing around in their studio suddenly acquires the gravitas of a holy relic. Warhol’s Brillo Box is an irreverent work that has become an object of reverence because of Warhol’s and the object’s place in art history.

 Goofing around is part of the artistic process; this doesn’t mean that artists don’t take their work seriously or that art doesn’t require a lot of time, effort and thought. But I think that one of the reasons people sometimes find modern and contemporary art off-putting is the reverence surrounding works that are, by their very nature, irreverent.

 Postnatal Pile is a response to Warhol’s Brillo Box using the consumer products of motherhood. It wasn’t very long ago that I went to the drugstore to buy a pregnancy test. Forty weeks later, I was at Target, and as I looked down in my shopping cart, I saw that I had become a different person. A mom person with a cart filled with diapers, diaper rash cream, baby wipes, nursing pads, lanolin nipple cream and super extra giant maxi pads.

 Childbirth, babies and nursing are all messy, primal, animal things. But we cling to the idea that there is a difference between us and our pregnant Labrador. A host of consumer products help us maintain that illusion. To paraphrase Brillat-Savarin, “Tell me what you buy, and I will tell you who you are.”

Kelly Klaasmeyer