Warhol By the Book
The Blanton Museum of Art hosted an Andy Warhol exhibit called Warhol by the Book; the exhibit is a retrospective of Andy Warhol’s career by focusing on his print work. Warhol, one of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century, became well known through his bright screen prints, such as the famous Marilyn Monroe silkscreen paintings and his Campbell’s Soup Cans. However, most people are unfamiliar with his prolific career in advertising and illustration that has been unjustly overshadowed by his work in other media.
Throughout his career, Warhol’s work exemplified Pop Art, an artistic movement that dominated the latter half of the 20th century and lives on in influence even today. Warhol was a pioneer of the movement, and became a cult figure that exemplified absolutely everything Pop Art aimed to be. Pop Art intentionally blurred lines between high culture, such as traditional painting and serious filmography (basically what people usually think of as “art”), and low culture, such as advertisements and pop culture with mass appeal.
Warhol by the Book showcases this part of Warhol’s career, as most of his commercial work was in print form. Many people don’t know that in his early years he worked in advertising for various department stores and magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar after studying art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. As he progressed in his career, he created pieces of mass produced art in his New York studio, aptly named “The Factory,” that were heavily influenced by his work as a commercial illustrator. He took mass produced pieces of art that he made multiple copies of, which required very little human touch, and transformed them into something that the art world began to respect and regard as equally as important to the culture as traditional painting itself was.
Warhol by the Book is a look into his budding career, and visitors to observe themes that are present throughout his work. Prominently displayed are his shoe ads, which are drawings he did for a shoe company to advertise in a newspaper After working in commercial illustration, Warhol began to run in crowds of well known people, such as Truman Capote and Edie Sedgwick, and this concept of celebrity very quickly became a theme in his art, which is seen his later works in this exhibit. Large screen-prints of Capote, James Dean, and Dolly Parton are on display, and act as examples for visitors to see later pieces of his art as opposed to his earlier prints.
Warhol’s oeuvre is as complex as it is extensive, and it will take more than one exhibit to fully understand him as an artist, his work, and the legacy of American pop culture he left behind.