Trying to find Warhol’s “Cum” at Thaddaeus Ropac

LONDON — I’m looking in useless for one thing referred to as “Cum Portray” by Andy Warhol. The date is fluid, roughly 1978, in response to the press pack. Why not? Life’s for the residing.

My journey begins simply to the best of the first-floor gallery door. I step again a tempo or two, into the middle of the room. I’m standing in a gobbet of magnificent, light-filled Mayfair swank, certainly one of 18th-century London’s best interiors. 

What about that portray over there? The little piece I’m staring again at is in a swooningly luxurious, come-buy-me-if-you-have-deep-pockets gold body, and it’s simply to the best of a powerful door with a pillared encompass, full with Corinthian capitals. The difficulty is — I’m strolling towards it now, boldly, scenting that I’m onto one thing tangible ultimately — the canvas seems utterly unpainted.

So I rise up respiratory shut and at last spot a only a few faint, yellowish blemishes or blotches. This should be it, then, Warhol’s cum, 50-something years within the drying out! Or maybe it belongs to certainly one of his pals. The press pack was just a little obscure about its provenance. 

Welcome to Alchemy at Thaddaeus Ropac, by which a spread of artists with well-known names combine unusual substances along with outcomes of variable curiosity. 

Are these actually profound mysteries? Or extra profound mystifications? Alchemy — that craving, from time immemorial, to remodel base metals into gold — has usually been the driving force, inspirer, and motivator of postwar artwork, from Kiefer and Warhol to Beuys, from Sturtevant to Polke, Vedova, and Rauschenberg. 

This present presents examples of works by all these artists, and it leaves us asking such questions as these: Has the concept of the studio as an alchemical laboratory, by which the artist-mage stares with wonderment and pent breath into their effervescent crucible, for all its gnomic and bewitching promise, truly helped to deliver into being works of tolerating curiosity? Does the uncontrollable thriller of those helter-skelter journeyings into the unknown quantity to far more than shamanistic posturing? 

A few of the least attention-grabbing works listed below are by Joseph Beuys, tedious little so-called “drawings,” virtually sq. or virtually rectangular, scrubby and rust-colored, with pencil scribblings, a number of of them achieved on the again of resort notepaper, and made to look a tad much less insignificant (and extra salable) by being enclosed inside big frames. Not until you consider that each final little mark made by the shaman within the broad-brimmed hat is as treasured as lead transmuted into gold will you discover these visually alluring. And what are we to make of this work on a shelf referred to as “Bathtub for a Heroine”? It seems as thrilling as sounds from its bald description: “Bronze, immersion heater with lead.” And why are three dates given for its making (1950/1961/1984)? Did it preserve falling to bits? 

Significantly better — in as far as they don’t appear to take themselves fairly so critically — are works on lengthy copper sheets by Robert Rauschenberg. The truth that these photos look like hidden inside the fabric, and to emerge with a level of mysterious reluctance, makes them look relatively great.  

These apart, this present is an existential disaster writ giant. The gallery’s description is stuffed with pretentious puffery: philosophical concepts, disaster concept, and far else. However how engrossing are these works to take a look at, actually? There’s the rub, Andy.

Andy Warhol, “Piss Portray” (1961), urine on linen, 42 x 72 inches (picture Ulrich Ghezzi; © The Andy Warhol Basis for the Visible Arts, Inc. / ARS, New York, 2023)
Sigmar Polke, “Katastrophentheorie IV” (1983), artificial and pure resin on canvas, 78.74 x 62.79 inches (picture Charles Duprat; © The Property of Sigmar Polke / DACS, 2023)
Robert Rauschenberg, “Copperhead-Chunk V / ROCI CHILE” (1985), silkscreen ink, acrylic, and tarnish on copper, 96.75 x 48.75 x 1.1 inches (© The Robert Rauschenberg Basis / ARS, New York, 2023)

Alchemy continues at Thaddaeus Ropac (37 Dover Road, London, England) by July 29. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.