Last Chance to Visit Pop Art in Portlandia: Andy Warhol Exhibit Ends New Year’s Day
Since October, Portlanders have been treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the work and world of Andy Warhol up close at The Portland Art Museum. An estimated 250 prints from the Jordan D. Schnitzer Family Foundation’s collection are on display, including some of Warhol’s most recognizable and celebrated pieces such as his prints of Marilyn Monroe and selections from his Campbell Soup Cans series.
The exhibit covers two floors of the museum beginning with Warhol’s provocative Mao and Soviet Union hammer and sickle prints upon entry. The prints of these two controversial subjects was not to show support for the Mao regime or communism itself but to emphasize their impact on the world, even in popular culture at that time. Having these images front and center upon entry to the exhibit evokes a range of emotions to the viewer. The repetition of the printed image (a signature of Warhol’s silkscreen prints) with the bold colors creates a conflict both visually and intellectually as the startling subject(s) are placed in a colorful and rhythmic display highlighting the fact these are familiar images needing no introduction for they are embedded in life – for better or for worse.
On a more personal note, I hardly think of Mao or the symbol of communism as anything bright or colorful; if anything, both conjure much darkness, misery, horror and isolation, but I appreciate the manner in which Warhol brought these images into his art forcing us to stare, no matter how beautiful (as with Marilyn or Elvis) or troubling as Mao or images of riots, and grasp with them as being representative of something happening in popular culture at the time Warhol produced them.
It goes without saying that Warhol had many pieces that drew ire, confusion, wonder and speculation, but what is perhaps most notable is that he always drew interest.
Whether the subject of his works were everyday product lines and household goods, familiar faces on the silver screen or news as well as complete unknowns, or notorious figures affecting society in his day, Warhol found a way to make them objects of art – or an art form. He was not a traditional artist; in fact, he did not think he could draw and also stated his art was not original – it came from what we already had in front of us. Warhol found a way to make it stand out and become relevant art.
I will admit to not being a fan of everything Andy Warhol broached; however, I do admire the simplicity and complexity he brought into much of his work both in the medium(s) used and thought process. There was also a sense of humor evident in Warhol’s work whether in his shoe illustrations with clever plays on words or the concept of Brillo boxes and any number of ads as art subjects.
A small room on the second floor of the museum harbors images from the Silver Factory and replicas of his Silver Clouds. On the silver wall are famed and framed albums covers by Warhol for The Velvet Underground, who were unknown at the time of their first release, and Rolling Stones along with photo stills and reference to his films, though his films are not featured in this exhibition.
Warhol’s impact on fashion cannot be forgotten either as an actual Souper Dress is prominently displayed in the same room with the Campbell Soup can prints. The significance of this 1965 dress, with Campbell Soup labels printed all over was that it gave a glimpse into the future: a day (like 2016) where everyone would become a walking billboard. What clothing store does not have apparel advertising a ‘brand’ or product of some sort?
Even more fascinating – perhaps breathtaking – (to me, anyway) were some of the same concepts about advertising and promoting familiar goods that were apparent in Warhol’s early work as an illustrator going back to 1954. This was long before Marilyn or Jackie O graced his silkscreen experimentations, well before his films, books or Interview magazine, and before there was a Factory, Warhol Crowd, Velvet Underground or Candy Darling; it was simply young Andy Warhol drawing, writing and visualizing a world in which people would be tattooed with logos and could one day get their fifteen minutes of fame.
On that note, the exhibit’s fifteen minutes are almost up at The Portland Art Museum and while many are on vacation this week, it would be a great time to visit the work of one of the most iconic artists of the 20th Century: Andy Warhol.
The Andy Warhol exhibit will run until January 1, 2017.
Tickets can be purchased online through The Portland Art Museum, and hours of operation are listed as well.
Lisa currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her artwork, a ton of books and her cats.
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