Andy Warhol offers easy access to art

The scenario is probably all too familiar to the average GW student: on a weekend night: you promise yourself and others you will head out to the Smithsonian, Capitol or some other cultural or political institution the next day. What follows is the obligatory late night, then the obligatory late rise and finally a compromise. You substitute J Street for a day of culture and end up ingesting a number of tacos, but no art.
If only daytime naps, partying and thinking about where to party did not take up so much time, students would have all the Washingtonian knowledge they set out to get when they came to GW.
The Corcoran Gallery is perfect for the upper echelon of lazy students. Located at 500 17th St., the museum is a few minutes’ walk from anywhere on campus. There is no need to plan a whole day around the trip, a small block of time will do.
Now is an ideal time to visit because the current special exhibit, “Andy Warhol: Social Observer” closes Feb. 19. Warhol, one of the most dynamic and controversial artists of the century, brings a sense of urgency to the expedition, especially since admission for college students costs all of a dollar.
Three rooms are devoted to Warhol’s endeavors, giving the viewer the power to judge the meaning behind a wide range of his of works, from an eight-hour, one-shot film of the Empire State Building from dusk to dawn to the more traditional paintings of Muhammad Ali and Marilyn Monroe.
It is easy simply to classify Warhol’s work as “weird,” and there is no doubt that it is. But there are plenty of common threads throughout his pieces to show that his ambition was not merely randomness, but an involved exploration of celebrity appeal in America. He was also interested in the country’s fascination with pop culture.
Warhol’s art, and the gallery itself, do not necessarily demand vast knowledge of art. The abstract nature of the exhibit is just plain cool no matter what your background in art may be. Even art enemies will be forced to give a begrudging nod to the originality of the displayed pieces. The fact is that the Warhol exhibit is a must see for everyone.
Warhol is known for ushering in the era of pop art, and those looking for the genre will not be disappointed. The bulk of the material, whether political (Mao is portrayed in various luminescent pieces) or morbid (5 Deaths in Orange makes a statement about the euphemisms that surround death in American culture), reflects American culture over the last few decades. Because images in the exhibit closely resemble the photographs that were the basis of his art, Warhol achieves his impact on a more visceral level than most artists, forcing the viewer to confront the reality of his picture.
Warhol’s work is just as important today as when it debuted, if not more so. The country’s fascination with celebrity, product and everything capitalist culture admires is as relevant as it has ever been.
Warhol melded his personal life with his professional life, becoming a celebrity cult figure in his own rite. He eventually became just as exalted as those he painted, adding an ironic twist to an already self-aware career. He was shot by the president his fan club in 1968, and mysteriously died during surgery in 1987. A bizarre life ended bizarrely; true to the art it fostered.
Some may not agree that Warhol’s paintings have any deeper meaning, or that he deserves any attention at all. But a $1 entry fee should never be passed up no matter how important an exhibit seems, especially considering the Corcoran’s quality regular exhibits.

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