Oxford – William Morris and Andy Warhol: “Love is Enough” Curated by Jeremy Deller at Modern Art Oxford Through March 8th, 2015

February 17th, 2015

Modern Art Oxford - Love is Enough - Installation view1
Jeremy Deller (curator), “Love is Enough” installation view (2014). via Modern Art Oxford

In Love is Enough at Modern Art Oxford, artist Jeremy Deller brings together the work of William Morris and Andy Warhol, two renowned artists from vastly disparate eras who served as something of artistic icons of their respective generations.  Drawing on a uniquely perceptive appreciation of both artists, Deller has created a seamless installation that shows a conversation across centuries over the accessibility of art and its purpose in countering the harshness of industrialism.

Modern Art Oxford - Love is Enough - Installation view2
Love is Enough (Installation View), via Modern Art Oxford.

The exhibition opens with the Hollywood celebrities found in so many of Warhol’s works placed opposite Morris’s depictions of knights and other Medieval figures. The two artists both had a deep interest in these untouchable heroes, elevated to a near superhuman nature. As a child, Warhol would write to his favorite Hollywood stars asking for autographs, and Morris spent his childhood drawing images of knights, but the interest of the artists in their respective heroes extends beyond the merely personal: there is a tendency in all of us to revere people of such mythical status. Even the arrangement of this room in the exhibition makes Marilyn Monroe appear to gaze at those knights placed across from her with admiration in her eyes.

William Morris - Modern Art Oxford - Love is Enough - How I Became a Socialist
William Morris, How I Became a Socialist (1894). via Wallpaper.

Both artists also railed against the different forms of capitalism and industrialism of their times, with Morris writing political pamphlets and Warhol depicting politically charged images, such as race riots and the electric chair in his art. Deller especially works to undermine the often held superficial perceptions of Morris as a communist obsessed with Medieval imagery and Warhol as a celebrity-crazy artist churning out commercialized prints.  In an interview with the Guardian, Deller points to Morris’s ideal factory described in his pamphlet A Factory as it Might Be, comparing it to Warhol’s workspace, appropriately named the Factory: “Everyone thinks [Morris] is a luddite. He wanted people to have gardens and grow their own vegetables. But Morris didn’t oppose machines: he thought they were good if they took away demeaning labor … I think that William Morris would be very happy that, in 2014, we live in Warhol’s world, that we don’t work in the kind of factories he hated.”

William Morris Andy Warhol - Modern Art Oxford - Love is Enough - Wallpaper Design, Head with Flowers
Left: William Morris, Wallpaper Design (1879); Right: Andy Warhol, Head with Flowers (1958), via Modern Art Oxford.

The politicized subject matter and the repetitive form found in both Morris’s and Warhol’s works are partly the result of their shared interest in democratizing art, giving everyone a voice and a view. However, not all of their mass-produced and widely accessible art is marked by politics. In Flower Power, the final room of the exhibit, Deller has collected flower motifs from each artist, showing one place where the two artists complement each other aesthetically, despite the apparent differences in the overall appearances of their bodies of work. Morris’s detailed floral wallpaper installed on the walls provides a good frame for Warhol’s flower screen prints and delicate drawings, leaving the audience with a pleasant and powerful visual connection between the two icons.

–K. Heiney

Andy Warhol - Modern Art Oxford - Love is Enough - Flowers
Andy Warhol, Flowers (1970), via Modern Art Oxford

William Morris - Modern Art Oxford - Love is Enough - Printed Fabric Design
William Morris, Printed Fabric Design (1883), via Modern Art Oxford

Related Links:
Exhibition page [Modern Art Oxford]
Andy Warhol and William Morris face off in Oxford Exhibition [The Guardian]
Jeremy Deller: my summer in Andy Warhol’s Factory [The Guardian]
Andy Warhol and William Morris in a joint exhibition [The New York Times]
Andy Warhol and William Morris collide in a typically radical new show from artist Jeremy Deller [Wallpaper]