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Animal Love

Rarely seen Warhol works honor Silent Spring anniversary

March 22, 2002 - June 23, 2002

Two legendary former locals—Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson—will be united in spirit when The Warhol opens an exhibition on March 22 titled Silent Spring: Warhol’s Endangered Species and Vanishing Animals. 

Curated by assistant archivist Matt Wrbican, the exhibition honors the 40th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark 1962 book, Silent Spring, which exposed the deleterious effects of pesticides on animals and the environment.

According to Dr. Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Carson’s alma mater, Chatham College, “Few works can be credited with having such far-reaching impact.  Carson’s poetic expose and steadfast advocacy led to the banning of DDT, the establishment of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the groundswell of public opinion and mobilization that led to the modern-day environmental movement.”  Carson’s childhood home in Springdale, Pennsylvania, is now an environmental education center for the public known as the Rachel Carson Homestead. 

Andy Warhol was an animal lover—as his many affectionate portraits of cats and dogs clearly attest.  However, according to biographer David Bourdon, Endangered Species and Vanishing Animals, both produced in the 1980s, demonstrated his growing awareness and concern for the more jeopardized members of the animal kingdom.  Endangered Species is a portfolio of 10 brilliantly colored prints, each depicting a different animal in indomitable Warhol style.  The Andy Warhol Museum is displaying these prints for the first time as part of this exhibition. 

Vanishing Animals is a set of 15 unique works on paper Warhol created for a book he produced in collaboration with Kurt Benirschke of the San Diego Zoo.  Not all 15 of the original works will be on display, but they can all be seen in copies of the book as part of the exhibition.

--Danielle Scherer

Joel Wachs: A New President for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

When Andy Warhol died in 1987, he bequeathed essentially his entire estate to "the advancement of the visual arts." To achieve this goal, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was created. The late Fred Hughes, executor of the artist's will, became the foundation's first president. In 1990, Arch Gillies took over the helm. During his tenure, the charitable and advocacy organization became "a clean and well-oiled machine," according to The Andy Warhol Museum Director Thomas Sokolowski. Now, there's a new president driving this important vehicle: Joel Wachs, a 62-year-old lawyer, former Los Angeles City Councilman (its first openly gay member), art patron, and Andy Warhol Foundation board member for six years.

In a recent telephone interview, Wachs sounded quite satisfied with his new position: "My desk is surrounded by four wonderful works by Andy Warhol and the office is located in the only Louis Sullivan building in New York," he said affably.

Not too long ago, however, Wachs' outlook wasn't quite so bright. After 30 years on City Council, he ran for mayor of Los Angeles but came in fourth in the race.  Despite the defeat, Wachs has consistently been recognized for his work as a taxpayer's watchdog and a passionate advocate of civil and human rights. When he left his seat, the maverick councilman was praised in the Los Angeles Times as "A voice of independence and integrity in City Hall."

The offer to head the Warhol Foundation came on the heels of the election, and Wachs admitted he was thrilled to accept. "I love New York and the extraordinary challenge of this job," he said.

While the role of president is a new challenge, Wachs has long been intimate with the Greenwich Village-based organization and its mission. "I've been on the board here for six years and the Foundation's core programs are things I have been involved in. I'm not coming in here to rearrange everything," he said.

Endowed with $131 million and committed to giving away $5 million a year, The Andy Warhol Foundation makes grants to cutting-edge arts institutions across the country and speaks out for freedom of expression. "I want to build on what we do with respect to advocacy," Wachs said.

"Post 9/11, I want to advocate for a role for the arts community in the rebuilding of lower Manhattan," he continued. "To make sure they get a voice at the table. It's critical to this city and an example to other cities," he said.

This idea of the arts enhancing the quality of life has always been a hallmark of Wachs' agenda, both political and private. "I can't imagine my life without poetry, theater, literature.   All the arts are important to me," he said. "But my personal love has been contemporary art."

Wachs has long been noted as an art collector and patron of artists and museums. Art News once listed him among the top 200 collectors in the world, and as a councilman he helped put together a $17 million arts endowment.

Wachs said he has bought several works of art since he's been in New York, but laments that he has to keep them in a closet until he moves out of his sublet and into a place of his own.

While he's looking forward to establishing a Manhattan residence, Wachs said he will always maintain ties to California. "I'm really looking forward to bringing my art to New York," he admits."But my home, friends, and memories are in Los Angeles," he said. "My elderly mother is there, I've kept my house there, and all my possessions are there.

One thing he doesn't really miss is having to drive everywhere. "You can't imagine how happy I am not to have a car," he said. "Coming from Los Angeles, the freedom is amazing. I love walking in the city."

He also anticipates visiting Pittsburgh more often. "I love Carnegie Museums and I'm especially fond of The Andy Warhol Museum," he said. "I look forward to coming to Pittsburgh to participate in The Warhol board meetings."

One thing Wachs sees and embraces on both coasts is a vibrant contemporary arts scene: "I have friends in both places who are artists, museum directors, critics. Creative people are an asset to any community."

Off the Wall: Spring 2002

The Andy Warhol Museum's spring Off the Wall offerings feature two of the New York performance scene's baddest boys.

First up on March 23 is Mike Albo, described in Paper as "Blessed with a poet's ear, a novelist's eye, and a speed freak's tongue." This fast-talking and physically hyperactive artist brings his one-man show, Please Everything Burst, which includes roughly a dozen monologues exploding topics such as media, materialism, status, sex, and pop culture.

While one of Albo's characters claims, "I want to live in a space between magazines," the performer himself has been turning up in a number of them. Reviewers are calling his energetic piece hilarious, touching, honest, ironic, and undeniably fascinating; and describing Albo as everything from a "Huckleberry Finn" to a "self-loathing Rupert Everett with a dash of Dennis Miller." Co-written with Virginia Heffernan, Please Everything Burst is a ferociously funny show from an astute social satirist.

Off the Wall continues on April 27 with No Black Male Show, led by multi-talented Carl Hancock Rux. A charismatic composer, musician, poet, and spoken-word performer, his distinctively deep baritone voice has been compared to "Gil Scott Heron shaded with Jimi Hendrix swagger." He will arrive at The Warhol with a trio of vocalists and percussionists, including Helga Davis, Jason Finkelman, and Valerie Winbourne.

Although Rux grew up in foster care in New York's Harlem, he has gone on to attend Columbia University and was named by The New York Times as "One of 30 Artists Under the Age of 30 Most Likely to Influence Culture Over the Next 30 Years." He has published a collection of poetry and prose called Pagan Operetta, and also has appeared in works such as the Nuyorican Theater Festival Anthology. In 1999 his CD, Rux Review, and was selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Alternative Albums of the Year.

Both programs begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15; $10 for students. A meet-the-artist reception follows each performance. For more information call 412. 237. 8300.

--Margie Romero




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