Over three hundred people gathered last Saturday night in Los Angeles to see Andy Warhol return from the grave. It was all thanks to cult Californian artist Jeffrey Vallance, the man better known for burying a frozen chicken called Blinky in 1978. He'd proposed a séance with the iconic Pop Artist in conjunction with the VEILS exhibition at the Underground Museum, a mega-art show curated by Ariana Papademetropoulos and Jhordan Dahl.
It's not the first time Vallance has channelled the dead: he contacted ex-US president Richard Nixon in 2009 and spoke to Salvador Dali in 2010. To reach Warhol, Vallance enlisted psychic medium Joseph Ross, a frequent collaborator who had worked with him to contact Nixon and Dali.
Dahl and Papademetropoulos were busy at the Underground Museum that afternoon adorning the galleries with massive bouquets of stargazer lilies, candelabras and black velvet. The crowd, which included Gus Van Sant and Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, arrived to the sounds of a live theremin. A black cat slunk around a maze of cushions in the courtyard, the feline on loan from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A sexual, morbid fragrance charged the scene, lit overhead by a moon that had recently undergone three eclipses. The night seemed ripe for summoning the spirits.
Papademetropoulos introduced Vallance and Ross as they took to the stage. When the fog machine began to sputter, Ross “changed” into Andy offstage and returned in a silver wig and black Warhol glasses. Dahl had selected the slideshow images that would move their conversation forward, but at times it caused Andy to pause with a long “hmmmm”.
Pink bananas in a repeated pattern: "I wanted to fuck the world and penises are great. Rent one, if you don’t already have one". A portrait of Brigitte Bardot: "Beautiful, like a lion or a man trapped in all this big hair". A Campbell’s Soup Can: "I filled those cans with all my love."
Questions later opened up to the audience. One woman asked if he had ever reconciled with Valerie Solanas, the feminist who wrote the SCUM Manifesto and made an attempt on Andy's life. “I couldn’t make time for all of my admirers, so it was bound to happen. But, I loved her. As I love... all of you.”
“What artists do you influence today?” another man asked.
“I didn’t know that I was influencing anyone back then," Andy replied. "I was just doing what I was doing. I am in everyone now.”
I wrote down my question on a card. It simply read, “Why didn’t you ever pay Edie (Sedgwick)?”
“I was cheap," Andy replied. "I gave my friends love, not money.”
The night went on like this until finally Ross “couldn’t remember” someone. He didn’t recognise the renowned artist and formal Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin, whose use of Polaroids and works like Cock Book and Tit Prints were major influences on Andy. Anyone who was a fan of Berlin would probably recall his close friend and the singular artist – or so I thought.
It felt like the tense moment in the nineties marriage-of-convenience visa flick, Green Card, where the jig is up on Gerard Depardieu when he flubs an interview question in front of immigration officers. Vallance speculated that maybe Andy lost a bit of his memory as he “floated up in the heavens with all the other artists”.
Or, as Papademetropoulos puts it: “Andy turned into cosmic hippie."
VEILS Group Exhibition runs through June 12th. Underground Museum is located at 3508 West Washington Blvd, Los Angeles