From November 21, 2000 to January 7, 2001, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present fifteen of Andy Warhol's seldom-exhibited screen tests, early experiments that extended into film the artist's fascination with portraiture and celebrity. On view continuously in the Video Gallery of the newly reinstalled Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol:15 Screen Tests documents such Warhol-circle "celebrities" as Paul America and Ingrid Superstar and luminaries from the rock and art worlds, including Lou Reed of Velvet Underground, critic Susan Sontag, and dealer Ivan Karp.
Between 1964 and 1966 Andy Warhol (1928-1987) pioneered a unique type of cinematic portraiture. This compilation of recently restored footage on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh offers a rare sampling of the nearly five hundred such films produced in the Warhol Factory in New York.
In the screen tests, Warhol adopted a consistent, disarmingly straightforward approach in which each subject was asked to sit motionless before his stationary camera. Only light conditions vary in the resulting four-minute silent, black and white films that are deliberately projected in slightly slow motion. Warhol's method suggests a scientific experiment, measuring his sitters' reactions to the cinematic situation and documenting expressions that range from the carefully crafted masquerade of hipster cool to flashes of tension and vulnerability. Eerily compelling, these screen tests testify to the inexhaustible fascination with the human persona that fueled Warhol's portrait investigations in photography, painting, and film. As slow-motion paintings and still films, Warhol's screen tests foreshadow recent developments in film and video, a testimony to his enormous impact on art since the 1960s.