New York Warhol Exhibit Shows Artist’s History

The New York High Museum of Art has just recently unveiled its latest temporary exhibit to the public, this one a celebration of the iconic Andy Warhol, responsible for the painting of Campbell’s soup can, among a great many others.

The exhibit acts as a timeline of Warhol’s works, containing over 250 of the artist’s works, starting from works from the early days of his career, during his time as a marketing illustrator in the late 40s, up to and including his ascension into fame as one of America’s most famous, or infamous, artists.

The collection is mostly composed of silkscreen prints, with some pop art prints of his most famous works. Silkscreen prints started out in the advertising industry, until they shifted and were considered a serious art form due to Warhol’s efforts.  This gave his most famous pieces their signature character; striking, vibrant, and harsh, if need be.

Visitors who go to the exhibit can view the whole range of Warhol’s works, which include prints of Civil Rights era photos, and images of celebrities like Mick Jagger. Of course, the ubiquitous Campbell’s soup cans is part of the exhibit, but there are also some standout pieces; Warhol’s lesser known and darker pieces.

Included in these lesser known pieces are a set of pop art prints from 1971, which feature the image of an empty electric chair, heavily distorted and discoloured, creating a disturbing, surreal effect that makes them hard to even view.

Another, equally disturbing piece is a reproduction piece from 1964, entitled ‘Birmingham Race Riot’, which depicts police officers beating peacefully protesting African Americans. These pieces are a stark reminder to visitors that Warhol’s time period was also one of the most turbulent eras in the history of America.

Still, Warhol was known for his bright, poppy artworks, which are, of course, celebrated as well. Among the most memorable of his works was a series of 1972 prints entitled ‘Mao’ which feature the eponymous Communist Chinese leader, but with his image discoloured and distorted, giving the leader a phantom-like appearance.

The exhibit is densely packed into a relatively small space, making walking through the exhibits feel both overwhelming and disorienting. At first it seems odd that the space would be so small, given the numerous other spaces where the 250 works in this collection could be exhibited properly, but after a while it becomes clear that that is the point. The artworks themselves are of popular figures, yet discoloured and distorted, which makes people feel unfamiliar with those images. This deliberately induced unfamiliarity is part of the commentary about commercialism and American culture that Warhol speaks of in his works, including his pop art prints.

The exhibit began at the later end of June, and will continue until the 3rd of Sept. Admittance is only free on the second Sunday of every month.For those who visit and pay, however, the museum holds a live four-hour jazz session in the main atrium at every third Friday of the month.

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Posted in Art