Warhol gets his 15 minutes

An A-line dress printed with the iconic Campbell’s soup cans. An oil portrait of George Washington. A photograph of children’s character Howdy Doody. These are just a few of the items shown in “Warhol,” a new exhibit in the Luther W. Brady Gallery that highlights pop art legend Andy Warhol.

“A lot of people know the name ‘Andy Warhol,’ but they don’t know much about his actual work,” said Olivia Kohler, the assistant director of the University’s art galleries. “They’ve never seen his photography.”

The show, which opened Feb. 3, includes 16 pieces of Warhol’s art from GW’s permanent collection, along with works from other artists. The University received many of Warhol’s pieces in 2008 through a donation from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The foundation gave more than 25,000 of Warhol’s photos – valued at more than $20 million – to 183 colleges and universities across the country. Kohler said that one of the stipulations of the gift was GW must show all of the photos within 10 years.

The exhibit’s images reflect Warhol’s ability to turn everyday objects and people into art. His Polaroid of Howdy Doody is just as captivating as, say, his photos of actress Mary Martin and fashion designer Carolina Herrera.

“He was a little star-struck, and photographed many different people in his career,” Kohler said. “We just wanted to give an overview of his work, to present a general idea of what he had done.”

All aspects of pop culture are represented, from fashion, to film, to politics. A small black-and-white picture of the author Truman Capote hangs near a poster of Mick Jagger. Photos of Edward and Joe Kennedy were placed adjacent to photos of Hollywood starlets.

“There’s a great story behind that Ted Kennedy Polaroid,” Kohler explained. “That picture is from a photo shoot to design a poster for his 1980 [presidential] campaign. Warhol was a big fan of the Kennedys.”

The exhibition also captured the essence of Warhol’s life and spirit. Off-the-cuff quotes like, “…went to the Coppa for the Mork show; Robin Williams, He was terrific…,” provide narration for his pieces, and offer a glimpse of what the artist was experiencing when he took the photo.

“We included those quotes to put his art in perspective, so that the viewer would know what was going on in his life,” Kohler said. A small slide show, put together by GW student Gabriel Seder, includes more on the subjects featured in the exhibit, as well as Warhol’s friends and influences.

The other artists in the exhibit were contemporaries of Warhol, like Lee Newman and Peter Max, and provide an artistic context for Warhol’s work. Newman’s oil painting of a hamburger, much like Warhol’s studies of the Absolut vodka bottles or Campbell’s soup cans, makes a work of art out of a mundane subject.

Kohler said that future exhibits would feature specific aspects of Warhol’s work.

“We want to show his process of taking Polaroid photos and turning those into silk screens,” she said.

“Warhol” is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit will run through March 5.

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