Saturday Disaster is one of the Rose Art Museum’s most iconic pieces. It’s Andy Warhol’s silk screen of a horrific car wreck.
"He had an interest in the relationship, the public emotion, the public spectacle to image-making," said Christopher Bedford, the museum's new director.
Bedford was hired last year to lead the Rose out of the disaster created when in 2009, Brandeis University attempted to close the museum and sell off its collection. Four years later, with both the museum and school under new leadership, the Rose, he said, is back and with Warhol at the center of its fall exhibitions.
"Not only is the Rose back and in full flower," he said, "but we have so much more than you imagined."
Warhol show, "Image Machine," testifies to museum's renewed vitality
As much of 90 percent of the exhibition comes from the Rose’s deep Warhol holdings. "Image Machine" is a metaphor, too. The Rose has managed to reinvent, just as Warhol frequently did.
"Warhol was somebody that had an intuitive understanding that painting, if it was to have a life, had to move into other directions," Bedford said.
Photography was the basis of that work—to the point of obsessiveness. Warhol created some 100,000 photographs during his lifetime, including Polaroids, which he favored for their simplicity.
"They were an origin point, for a lot of his work," said Bedford. "And you see which one of the Polaroids eventually became a bigger work; you can see his mind at work. That, for me, is what makes them so interesting to look at."
Warhol a sketchbook for much of what we see today
“You walk past, say, Crate and Barrel," Bedford explained. "And you see a window, and the window is lined with 200 blue vases, which individually, are completely uninteresting. But as an ensemble, and as a way to market, and as a total image, become completely compelling. That investment in repetition has always been very Warholian. It’s been taken up as a branding method."
Which of course Warhol himself did, making the "Image Machine" a matrix of art, commerce and culture within photography, wallpaper and painting.
"It was kind of this totalizing effect which feels to me, it’s a world," said Bedford. "It’s Andy’s world. That was the desire."
And a path for what was to come.
CORRECTION: In the Greater Boston discussion, Emily Rooney asked if Brandeis lost part of its endowment in the Madoff scandal. Several of Brandeis’s prominent donors lost money in the Madoff scandal, but at no time did the university have any endowment funds invested with Madoff.