At the Upper East Side gallery, Luxembourg & Dayan, a rapt audience listens while artists George Condo and Dorothea Rockburne discuss their experiences working for Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, respectively. Rockburne complains that Warhol’s Factory was too cocaine-ridden. Condo tells viewers how everyone referred to Andy as “Mrs. Warhol.” Laughs and nostalgia fill the narrow townhouse, and a photographer asks the pair for more stories.
Rockburne remembers when Rauschenberg had given her a wry smile and said, “My sculpture which was one piece just came back in five parts.” “His sense of humor and his intelligence was so superb,” says Rockburne lovingly.
This is the gallery preview of new exhibition, In the Making, which features all four artists’ work, as well as 21 other artists, divided into ten groupings of artists and their assistants.
Warhol’s cartoonish silkscreen, Howdy Doody (1981), hangs next to George Condo’s Television Silkscreen (Howdy Doody/Mr. Howell) (1998). The pieces share subject matter, media, and tone (they’re both a little eerie). Condo’s admiration for his former boss shines through the work, as does his own unique artistic approach. Whereas the Warhol work features only one large cartoon character, Condo complicates the image by including multiple figures, some of them photographic. An ominous swath of black hides some of their features. The pieces side by side reveal an idealized version of the artist / assistant relationship. Viewers don’t see any of the tensions that might have emerged in an artist’s studio—just the inspiration and new work.
Rockburne is part of a larger grouping. She and Brice Marden both assisted Robert Rauschenberg, and Carroll Dunham worked for her. All of their art hangs in the entry of Luxembourg & Dayan. Three Rauschenberg works from his Tablet series (comprised of embossed paper, tape, cardboard, and stamps) reveal an artist at play with texture and monochrome. Marden’s Untitled (1970) does similar work as it combines oil and wax crayon over silkscreen on paper laid across canvas. Both Rockburne and Dunham explore wood in different forms: the former used nails, crude oil, chipboard, and paper, while the latter employed gouache, charcoal, and pencil on veneer.
Elsewhere, art is on view from such contemporary luminaries as Cindy Sherman, Urs Fischer, Richard Prince, and Christopher Wool. The oldest work on view is Edward Kienholz’s America My Hometown from 1963, and four works are dated 2016. The show celebrates the new and the old, and especially the connections among them.
As with much talk about contemporary art these days, Rockburne’s discussion turned to wistfulness about the way things used to be. “Everything’s so much about the market now,” she said. “And nobody goes into what makes the work, how it comes about, what the human aspect of it is.” Judging from the young audience that surrounded her, eager to hear about the good old days, it seems she isn’t the only one lamenting recent changes and romanticizing the New York art world’s storied past. Luckily, exhibitions and gatherings like this one provide unique opportunities to hear the stories first hand while looking at expertly curated shows. Nights like these remind young, ambitious New Yorkers of the city’s allure—stories, characters, incredible art, cocktails, and most of all, the affirmation that today’s assistants can be tomorrow’s stars.
In the Making runs through April 16, 2016 at Luxembourg & Dayan. Click here for more information.