By Isoul Harris
“They always say time changes things, but you have to change them yourself.” — Andy Warhol
With a defiant commercial approach to art, Warhol cracked the blue-blood and avant-garde façade of the art world with his adulation of American consumerism. The brilliant exhibition Andy Warhol: Prints From The Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, currently on view at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art (1280 Peachtree St NE) presents the wonder of the Warhol inclusiveness: He single-handedly made art accessible by enabling the average American to see themselves on canvas and connecting the world through the mutual coveting of celebrity. He transferred the mundane of Middle America and fame worship to the MoMA.
“It was fun to see the Museum of Modern Art people next to the teeny boppers next to the amphetamine queens, next to the fashion editors.” -– Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol: Prints is a wholesale gestalt of the Pittsburgh native’s most famous pieces including the Campbell’s Soup Can series; the portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Mao Zedong, Muhammad Ali, and more. The 250 pieces present a robust narrative of Warhol’s extraordinary career and life. From 1964’s Birmingham Race Riot (he reworked an image of a peaceful march by Charles Moore into a depiction of an attack on a demonstrator) to the album covers he created for superstars such as Diana Ross and The Rolling Stones, Andy Warhol: Prints informs and charms.
“If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface; of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it … I see everything that way, the surface of things, a kind of mental Braille. I just pass my hands over the surface of things.” -– Andy Warhol
Warhol’s practice of self-portrait, using camera clicks and brush strokes to capture his likeness was a pre-Millennial, contemporary practice of the “selfie”; and, he accurately predicted that in the 21st Century mere mortals would experience the intoxication of world fame for a minimum of 15 minutes. Both concepts would become foundations on which reality star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian West would create uncanny fame and astonishing wealth.
Warhol’s pop art presents a world of elevated superficiality and important nuance. The artist, who died in 1987, explored many issues still relevant today, including gender-bending (Ladies and Gentlemen, 1975), and the threat of nuclear power (Sunset, 1972)—both pieces are presented at The High.
The May 1969 cover of Esquire, featuring Warhol drowning in a can of Campbell Soup, designed by legendary creative director George Lois, charged the pop artist with killing off the avant-garde. Andy Warhol: Prints proves one thing: The world is still fascinated by Warhol’s murderous act nearly 50 years later.
The exhibit closes September 10. Hurry.
[Images: Isoul H. Harris/@isoulharris]