The Warhold Museum in Pittsburgh, PA
Andy Warhol is one of my top five favorite artists of all time but I didn’t always hold him in such high esteem. When I was an art major at university I flat out rejected any influence he had on my artwork - at the time I was pretty sneering towards the “commercialism” of Warhol, while embracing a more suitably “radical” influence in the constructivist images of Rodchenko, as well as the products and psuedo-advertsing of Jospeh Beuys (ironic given he has a lot of the same subtext as Warhol). Back in those days I was always looking for stimulus that was challenging and different, and I think Warhol was just too big, and too obvious, for my inner-art-rebel to recognize as someone whose art (and life) was one of the most brilliant commentaries on American society in the 20th century. His status as one of the most recognizable artists around the world is a validation of his timeless influence, not to mention how he set course for the intersection of art, celebrity, advertising and media well into the 21st century.
It was years after I finished my art degree that I actually began searching out his work and reading about him, both in biographies and in his own words, and discovered that so much of what the art i made and concepts I believed in were like walking directly in his footsteps. Of course its nothing unique for people to “discover” things years after the time they were initially encountered, we all have the music or movies we only grew to appreciate when we became true adults. But for me, the fact that Warhol is such a huge influence on me and I only recognized it later still makes me shake my head at my younger self.
I visited the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh last April for the second time in the past ten years, and it was even better than I remembered it. Warhol is a contemporary artist whose body of work needs, and deserves, a museum dedicated to his legacy, and It’s great to see it in his birthplace. They do a good job of rotating the pieces, I think almost everything I saw was different, including the film and video sections. It’s now part of the Carnegie Museum which gives them access to what I would assume is a large collection owned by the Carnegie Museum/Foundation.
As expected all the iconic work is there: a large selection of the Campbells soup cans, his brillo boxes, his early tabloid collages, a massive Silver Elvis, silver ballons…. but they also have a great selection of his film work projected large on gallery walls, including the most famous films like Empire, Blow Job, Chelsea Girls, and lots of his screen tests. In another part of the museum you can sit at interactive computers and browse his filmography and watch virtually any of the films and episodes of his various TV shows broadcast over the years on New York public access, and even a short-lived MTV show.
Of course there’s an incredible selection of his silkscreen portraits, probably his most recognizable work. Because the museum affords visitors such an intimately close view of the work, you can see the painted details on the canvas, something that can easily be missed if you don’t look closely.
Also on display (at this moment) is a selection of his massive Skull paintings Previous to this visit, I had only seen one of these massive 20ft high pieces in a different museum, so it was a thrill to see so many of them in one place. It was also interesting to see a smaller gallery of paintings with the original photographs used to make the high-contrast screens for the prints, giving visitors a glimpse at part of his artistic process.
There’s so much more to see that I’m neglecting to detail here, but frankly as with any artwork, the best way to experience it is in person, forming your own opinions.