Between 2011 and 2012, artist Rachel Harrison produced a series of more than fifty colored-pencil drawings of Amy Winehouse. She placed the late singer in the company of well known characters from art history such as Picasso’s version of Gertrude Stein and DeKooning’s Woman.
Rachel Harrison’s Life Hack, now showing at the Whitney Museum of Art, dedicates a whole room to these drawings, making the singer into an avenging angel of art history. The Amy Winehouse room hosts a series of exaggerated color pencil drawings. Like many of us, Harrison was affected by Winehouse’s premature death at 28 and the haunting images of her decline which preceded it.
In some of these drawings, Harrison combines the artists’ pictorial styles with her own DIY-looking pastiche aesthetic, occasionally setting up visual rhymes between her own sculpture and Winehouse’s image. In others, Harrison fuses Winehouse with the themes and subject central to their work — lovers, drinkers, images of the overburdened genius at work — allowing the singer to embody a re-imagined art history.
I wonder if Harrison is suggesting that Winehouse, a once beloved and roaring talent, is now exclusively allocated to a certain fate of artists and muses: known only for the pejorative images they leave behind?
Head to the Whitney Museum of Art to find out for yourself.
Gif by Fablola Lara.