(wall text from the installation)
Artists Interpret 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 the Brillo Boxes have spawned many responses ranging from incredulousness to reverence and museum visitors often remain puzzled as to what the artist’s intentions were. The Andy Warhol Museum addresses some of these questions by presenting contemporary interpretations of the Brillo Boxes. Drawing from artists’ and scholarly perspectives, these installations offer a 21st century perspective and pose a creative counterpoint to the original artwork. For the third installation in the series, the Museum invited artist Kelly Klaasmeyer, a Houston-based artist and art critic to share her perspective on the Brillo Box.
Previous perspectives include an installation piece by artist Amy Wilson, and a joint curated installation by University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences and Center for Bioethics and Health Law, and The Warhol in conjunction with the special exhibition Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. These were supported by the Heinz Endowments Art Experience Initiative.
Artist Perspective: Kelly Klaasmeyer
Warhol made the Brillo Box a couple years before I was born. 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 because of 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 is an irreverent work that has become an object of reverence because of Warhol’s and the object’s place in art history. Museums can be very serious places but artists’ studios rarely are. (Unless the artist is really pretentious, which also usually means their work sucks.) Forget Hollywood notions of divinely inspired, tortured artists; goofing around—playing with materials, ideas and images—is a major 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 we can safely assume that Warhol didn’t stride dramatically into his studio one morning in 1964, raise his fist in the air and declare, “Today, I will create a masterpiece!” It’s strange when an object that grew out of somebody goofing around in their studio is treated with the gravitas of a holy relic. 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 ointment, 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. But to paraphrase the 18th century French politician and epicure, Brillat-Savarin, “Tell me what you buy, and I will tell you who you are.”