Whether you love or hate America’s obsession with pop culture, credit (or blame) Andy Warhol. As you will see when you visit the stunning Andy Warhol exhibit that just opened at the High Museum of Art, he seemed destined to put art in front of us in a way that it was – and is – impossible to ignore.
Who doesn’t see his iconic soup cans or Marilyn Monroe prints and not think to themselves, “Andy Warhol.”
Warhol’s work, says Jordan Schnitzer, owner of the Warhol art on display at the High, “chronicles American life in the second half of the 20th century.”
Lucky for Atlanta and visitors to Atlanta, the High Museum exhibition is the exclusive Southeast venue for “Andy Warhol: Prints from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.” On view through Sept. 3, the retrospective is the largest exhibition of its kind, featuring more than 250 prints and ephemera by Andy Warhol (1928-1987).
Here are a few of our favorite things from the exhibit:
- Early work. Even before he became a pop art sensation, Warhol was drawing. Two of his early subjects were cats and shoes. An enormous painting of a blue cat graces one wall of the exhibit. It’s title, “One Blue Pussy.” Of a red and green shoe he drew, Warhol wrote: “Beauty is shoe, shoe beauty.” Beneath his turquoise shoe, “My shoe is your shoe.” Below his pink shoe, “Uncle Sam wants shoe.”
- Sense of humor. Beneath a drawing of a bug is this inscription, “Happy Bug Day 1954.”
- Women’s liberation. In the soup gallery, a wall of 10 Campbell's Soup can prints are lined up five on top, five on the bottom. Directly across the room, 10 more hang in a single line. They’re all here: Old-Fashioned Vegetable, Scotch Broth, Hot Dog Bean. . . Schnitzer links the availability of canned soup (a quick and easy meal) to women gaining freedom from daily household chores, such as hours spent making soup from scratch. The world was changing, and Warhol chronicled it all.
- Vibrant colors. The striking -- as in difficult to look at anything else -- Marilyn Monroe prints invite you to stare and stare at the oranges, the pinks, the yellows, the reds. If you stand and look at each, one after another in succession, Schnitzer says, “It’s kind of like a movie of the different moods of Marilyn.”
- JFK. This quote from John Giorno hangs on the wall of the Kennedy assassination gallery: “We sat on the couch watching the live coverage from Dallas. Then we started hugging, pressing our bodies together and trembling. I started crying, and Andy started crying . . . Andy kept saying, ‘I don’t know what it means.’ ” In this gallery, wire service coverage is interspersed with Warhol prints of the Kennedys. It will break your heart.
- Mao Tse Tung. One massive wall holds Warhol’s famous prints of Mao, the Chinese communist leader and founding father of the People’s Republic of China. Schnitzer wondered aloud what Mao, perhaps the purist of communist leaders, must have thought of his image being immortalized by Andy Warhol, a gay man with a crazy lifestyle living in New York, the cradle of capitalism. Mao stares out at visitors to the High exhibit in vibrant greens, blues, pinks, yellows, and the prints are mounted against Mao wallpaper that was designed by Warhol.
- Racism. Warhol appropriated and reproduced a photograph of the Birmingham race riot by journalist Charles Moore. The photo was published in Life magazine in 1963.
- And lots more. See Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali, Franz Kafka, the Marx Brothers, NASA’s moonwalk and Warhol’s beautiful endangered species series.
“My fascination with letting images repeat and repeat – or in film’s case, ‘run on’ – manifests in my belief that we spend much of our lives seeing without observing” said Warhol, who was surely one of the great observers of life.
Indeed. “He was never without a camera,” says Michael Rooks, the High’s Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art.
“I think this Warhol exhibition will knock people’s socks off, with themes that are still relevant today,” says Schnitzer.
Confession: I did, in fact, lose my socks as I toured the exhibit.
On June 27, The High Museum presents a talk by Eric Shiner, who has been called “the greatest Warhol expert on the planet.” Shiner is former director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
Before or after you view the works of this iconic artist, grab a meal at one of these 13 iconic restaurants in Atlanta or walk across the street from the High and see the new exhibit, “Luba Lukova: Designing Justice” at the Museum of Design Atlanta.
Lukova creates images intended to help viewers develop empathetic understanding for social and cultural issues through indelible metaphors and an economy of line, color and text. Lukova hopes her images will catalyze action and change the world, as her posters address essential themes of humanity and injustice worldwide.
Journalist Carol Carter writes and edits for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.