普普藝術(Pop Art)大師安迪・沃荷(Andy Warhol)的回顧大展《From A to B and back again》在舊金山現代藝術博物館SFMOMA剛剛落下帷幕。這是自1989年以來首次其創作生涯的總回顧展。去逝32年後，安迪・沃荷仍然是20世紀後半葉最具影響力、知名度、顛覆性，和最接近大眾文化的藝術家。歷時近4個月的展期，場館內每日都是人潮湧動。超過300幅作品，涵蓋藝術家40年的創作生涯。展出作品包含繪畫、素描、手稿、絲網印刷、攝影、膠片、電視紀錄多種媒介。其中多間展廳集中展出他的名人肖像，瑪麗蓮・夢露(Marilyn Monroe)，貓王(Elvis Presley)，伊莉莎白・泰勒(Liz Taylor)，賈桂琳・甘迺迪(Jacqueline Kennedy)，毛澤東，最有趣的作品是藝術家的自畫像。這些肖像畫大多創作於60年代，也是安迪・沃荷高產和成名的時代。
和安迪・沃荷巨大的知名度與商業成功相對，對他“無藝術”、“無新意”、“商業畫家”的批評持續了幾個世代。評論家羅伯特・休斯(Robert Hughes)形容沃荷“是他見過的最蠢的人，因為他什麼想法也沒有”。威廉・德・庫寧(Willem de Kooning)毫無掩飾地批評他“摧毀了藝術，摧毀了美，甚至摧毀了幽默”。安迪・沃荷作為藝術家最大的爭議來源於他對商業毫不掩飾的熱烈擁抱。關於生意和藝術他的名言很多：“商業上的成功是最令人著迷的藝術，”他曾這樣說。“賺錢是藝術，工作是藝術，成功的生意則是最棒的藝術。”安迪・沃荷的名人肖像畫更是他生意經中重要的一部分。拋棄現代主義對真實和高尚的追求，他不吝惜地大量生產複製這些畫像。帶著面孔的畫布商品令一切人性扁平化，這些他創造出來的商品化的表象人格(Commodified Personas)是他獲取和享受名利場的工具，令他可以在消費主義這個框架下探索成功、聲望、時尚、感性、死亡。
Artist Jitish Kallat’s latest installation Epilogue was on view at the San Jose Museum of Art earlier this year. The Mumbai-based artist photographed 22500 rotis, the Indian pancake-like daily bread to draw profound links between the household food, life, mortality and loss.
Interestingly, each image of the roti represents a phase of the moon, and the successively eaten rotis simulate the moon’s waxing and waning. Viewers could notice that there is a poetic rhythm in this monumental work. Throughout the images of rotis, the lunar cycle comes back over and over again from the first photo frame to the last one. When viewing the images, the continuity would make the viewers feel comfortable in the first place and prompted them to count the moons of each month. Interestingly, some rotis have very similar shape yet not being identical. The black or brown burnt spots on the rotis are different in size and color. Just like the homemade food cooked following the same recipe from our daily dinner plate looks different, the images of the rotis are not repetitions copied from month to month. Instead, there is a sentiment of individuality throughout Kallat’s Epilogue. Moreover, the roti crumbs scattered around are visible on the black background, which look like the romantic moon rings in the dark sky.
However, a discontinuity is also present in this work. Kallat uses solar calendar to show the time cycles and his father’s lifespan. Thus one single moon phase cycle cannot be represented within one frame. A sense of incompleteness is given by the frames cutting through the lunar cycles. The discontinued visual experience would bring viewers feelings of anxiety and instability while imagining a scene in which the artist’s father witnessed the moon with his naked eyes every night, and think about the nature of life, sustenance, and the relationship between cosmic principles and human beings. Also, the fullness is interrupted by a lot of emptiness purposefully left by the artist. Between the last quarter moons and the crescent moons, a few spots are left and darkness takes place. Plus, the last frame has only one image with the rest of the space remaining black and empty.
Unlike most of the contemporary Indian artists who focus on creating art to search for national identity and cultural roots, in Epilogue, Jitish Kallat explores various issues that are more personal and emotional such as family tradition, personal loss, daily food, life and death, and monumentalizes an ordinary man’s lifetime in a universal humanistic way.