Mike Bidlo is best known for his incredibly accurate replications of masterworks by important twentieth century artists, including Picasso, Matisse, Man Ray, Duchamp, Leger, Pollock, and Warhol. Bidlo's earliest pieces were partially performances, such as "Jack the Dripper at Peg's Place" (1982) for which he painted replicas of Jackson Pollock's drip paintings and re-enacted Pollock's infamous act of urinating into Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace (which Bidlo finds relevant to Pollock's painting technique and is related to Bidlo's later recreations of Warhol's urine splashed "Oxidation" paintings).
Bidlo is a staunch aficionado of twentieth-century modern art and his recreations of masterpieces are done with a sense of appreciation and devotion, and as an exploration into the concepts of originality and creativity. He is a member of the generation of artists, including Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Barbara Kruger, who emerged in the 1980s and practiced appropriating subjects and images from popular culture and art history into their own art. Bidlo describes his artistic activity: "My work is perhaps an extreme example of this strain of art which references other art because it directly mirrors the image, scale, and materials of the original. Whatever differences appear in my work are a consequence of my working method and not an attempt at projecting a personal style."
Bidlo works on an ambitious scale, and he has done 80 exact copies of Picasso's paintings of women, over 1000 drawings based on Duchamp's famous 'found' urinal sculpture, "Fountain" (1917), and made 100 Brillo boxes based on Warhol's original series of 1969. Warhol, after Duchamp, is the most famous to declare ordinary, commercial objects as works of art, and he did so with Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Brillo soap pads, Heinz tomato ketchup, and Kellogg's corn flakes. As Bidlo states: "I've always felt at home and not alone in claiming Duchamp's legacy. His selection of already-made everyday objects opened new avenues for subsequent generations of artists."
Bidlo's "Not Warhol (Brillo Boxes, 1964)" are exact replicas of those made by Warhol and are exhibited in a similar stacked formation. Bidlo says: "I thought it would be interesting to appropriate a work by another appropriator, so in a way I just kept the proverbial snowball rolling."
Warhol copied the design of the commercial cardboard cartons of Brillo and altered their size, but Bidlo works only from photographic illustrations of artworks found in books and catalogues. Consequently, Bidlo's "Not Warhol" transformations are reproductions derived from a photographic reproduction of an original reproduction of an original product. Adding another layer of detachment, Bidlo, like Warhol, encouraged assistants to participate in the making of art, and this group of boxes was produced in 2005 with the involvement of art students at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. It is also fitting that these replicas of household products are being exhibited at Lever House, in the former lobby space of Lever Brothers Company, who displayed their commercial brands, Sunlight dish detergent, Wisk, Surf, Dove, Lux, and Lifebuoy, in the same location.
Mike Bidlo was born in Chicago in 1953, and studied at the University of Illinois, Chicago (BA, 1973); Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (MFA, 1975); and Columbia University, New York (MA, 1978). Bildo lives and works in New York City. His work has been exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; New Museum, New York; PS 1/MoMA, Queens, NY; Sezon Museum, Tokyo; Saatchi Collection, London; and Fondation Cartier, Paris. The artist is represented by Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator
NOT WARHOL (BRILL° BOXES, 1964), 2005
Silkscreen inks on painted wood, forty-seven boxes, each 17 x 17 x 14 inches Lever House Art Collection, New York