'Tarot Deck Art' deals unusual hand
Rebecca Bloom, Intuitive Tarot Card Reader from Edgewood, selects cards at a recent Tailgate and Tarot Card Party at The Warhol.
Yoshitomo Nara, "Four of Swords," 2010
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Nothing's to be taken at face value in the exhibition "Contemporary Magic: A Tarot Deck Art Project" at The Andy Warhol Museum.
"Contemporary Magic," curated by Stacy Engman, features 78 original Tarot cards interpreted by artists and fashion designers in multiple media including photography, painting and collage.
Tarot cards originated in mid-15th-century Europe and were used for a number of card games before becoming part of occult mysticism beginning in the 18th century. Today, tarot cards are used by mystics for readings and discovering spiritual pathways.
The exhibit, which is on view through Aug. 15, uses the mystic aura surrounding Tarot cards to draw on universal themes in a modern context, according to Ms. Engman.
"The project's so much more than just being about Tarot cards. Each card represents several archetypes and different aspects of who we are. It's about associations with the iconic in a time of postmodernity."
Ms. Engman purposefully assigned a specific artist to each of the 78 cards based on their personality and style. It's the first time a Tarot card deck has featured a different artist for each card.
"I wanted to do something that's never been done before," Ms. Engman said. "I put a lot of thought into which artist or designer I wanted for each card and they all responded beautifully in a different way."
Along with the original Tarot cards, the exhibit features Andy Warhol's own Tarot card collection as well as a streaming video of "The Velvet Underground, Tarot Cards 1966," which documents Warhol's project from beginning to end. The video was shown to the public for the first time at the exhibit's opening.
Warhol is also present in Ms. Engman's deck in the form of "The Hanged Man." Patrick McMullan's photograph of Warhol standing next to his artwork, "The Invisible Sculpture," was turned upside-down to bear a resemblance in form and composition to "The Hanged Man" card in historical decks.
"The card's themes are archetypal of Warhol's approach to unexpected and unique revelations," Ms. Engman said.
To reinforce the allure of Tarot and its connection with the future, several of the exhibit's artists deal with contemporary and futuristic themes, such as the conversion of media and technology, according to Ms. Engman. The exhibit's "Eight of Swords" card features visually androgynous teenagers in a sterile surrounding to represent the loss of individuality and pre-programming of a technology-driven world.
"It speaks to where our society is going," Ms. Engman said. "The future is a weird thing. It shows you how contemporary culture can strip you of your femininity or masculinity to the point where you're like a robot."
Also ongoing at The Warhol is the exhibition "Mixed Signals: Artists Consider Masculinity in Sports."
Curated by Christopher Bedford, the show uses the field of sports to challenge the cultural structures and stereotypes of the American male. Artists use elements of wit, sarcasm and controversy to examine the role of masculinity in the homosocial world of male athletes, according to museum communications manager Rick Armstrong.
The exhibit, on view through Aug., 7, began in 1977 when art collector Robert Weisman commissioned Warhol to create an exhibit that brought the worlds of sports and art together.
"It's a great fit for a city like Pittsburgh," Mr. Armstrong said. "The exhibit is rooted in sports so I think people here will really appreciate it."
First Published June 12, 2011 12:00 am