Nobody since Picasso has meant more to the course of art history than Andy Warhol (1928-87). Andy Warhol Portfolios: A Life in Pop | Works from the Bank of America Collection, a vibrant and important exhibition that includes his signature icons from his earliest paintings to his innovations in silkscreen printing, will be on view at the Nassau County Art Museum beginning May 8. The collection features the most famous images in Pop art, from the Campbell’s soup can and Marilyn Monroe, pioneering works made in the 1960s, to the late, great Vesuvius series, made just two years before his death in February 1987. One landmark museum show gathers masterworks from his early experimentations with the silkscreen process through the peak of his fame, on loan through the Bank of America Art in our communities program, and will reach a Long Island audience, including thousands of schoolchildren in local districts, who have never before had a local museum show dedicated to Andy Warhol.
“We are absolutely thrilled to partner with the Bank of America, a longtime generous supporter of our education and exhibition efforts, on this fabulous show,” Angela S. Anton, president of the Museum’s board of trustees, said.
Warhol’s appeal is uniquely universal. He is as popular with the public as he is with scholars (who elevate him to the status of philosopher through his “transfigurations of the commonplace”). He seized the powerful tools of media and advertising right then in his own moment and, with an artistic alchemy that never fails to astonish, he returned the Campbell’s soup can to the supermarket aisle with the new aura of an artistic masterpiece.
Publicity shots of celebrities, including Muhammad Ali and Albert Einstein, radiate the colorful energy of icons. As wildly popular as he is worldwide, there was always something essentially American about the achievement of this native of Pittsburgh, making the round trip between low and high, or between the remote and the ordinary (Space Fruit is a fantastic example of how he managed this in one work).
This show, which will offer valuable lessons for thousands of school children as well as the general public, offers an historically important opportunity to teach a new generation about the importance of Warhol, and to open those who may be familiar with many of his works to a brand-new interpretation of a familiar figure. Even in person, Andy Warhol was an otherworldly presence whose rapid-fire production and mass-media ubiquity left an impression of distance, the way the celebrities he portrayed seemed to come from another world. This air of mystery pervades one of the most haunting works in the show, a self-portrait titled The Shadow. One of the many strengths of this deep dive into his career is the way it draws him more closely to us. This is an opportunity to become acquainted with a more personal genius, in part through the intimacy of his magazine and record album designs (precious archival materials), his hand-colored flowers and some of his earliest interpretations of the Campbell’s Soup can and Marilyn Monroe portrait. The portfolios reveal the process that Warhol perfected, and the Museum installation will follow his grid format in the presentation of the series. Theme and variations bring us closer to the mind in creation, as we watch a basic idea develop in the hands of the artist. The ten versions of the Flowers, for example, cycle through color palettes as dramatically varied as the serial landscapes of Claude Monet.
“At Bank of America, we believe in the power of at arts to help economies and communities thrive, particularly here on Long Island. While these vital institutions have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, their work remains as important as ever,” Connie Verducci, Bank of America NYC-Long Island Market executive, said. “It is our honor to support the Nassau County Museum of Art through Bank of America’s Art in our Communities program and bring some of Andy Warhol’s most iconic and thought-provoking works to Long Island.”
—Submitted by the Nassau County Museum of Art