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Superstar Summer: Andy at 75

The Andy Warhol Museum Celebrates the Artist’s 75th Birthday With 5 Superstar Exhibitions This Summer


If Andy Warhol were around for his 75th birthday on August 6, 2003, he’d most likely celebrate with his favorite people – celebrities. To mark this important milestone, The Andy Warhol Museum will present a superstar summer of Andy Warhol celebrations and celebrity exhibitions.


During the next few months, those who visit The Warhol will see five festive exhibitions: Where is Elvis? The Man and His Reflection; Douglas Gordon: Blind Star; Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett; The American Supermarket, and Clown Paintings from the Collection of Diane Keaton and Others.


Where is Elvis?

It is appropriate to begin a birthday celebration for Andy Warhol by inviting Elvis, one of the few mortals whose legend is as durable as Warhol’s own. Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935, and he lived until, well, he lives still, his fame and celebrity untarnished by time.


The exhibition Where is Elvis? The Man and His Reflection will be on view on the first floor of The Warhol June 15 through September 1, in the gallery dominated by Warhol’s monumental work, Elvis (Eleven Times). The exhibition will feature more than 70 black and white images of Elvis Presley taken by photojournalists in the 1950s and 60s.


Where is Elvis? originated at the Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, and was seen last summer by John Smith, assistant director for Collections and Research at The Warhol. As presented by the Greenberg Gallery, the show included pictures of Elvis from the start of his career right up until the time of his death in 1977.


Early Elvis

After deciding to bring the show to The Andy Warhol Museum, Smith edited it to focus on the early years, when Elvis was at his most beautiful and innocent. “The original show had pictures of Elvis toward the end, in the 70s, that were sad and in some ways mean-spirited. We all know the end of his story, which was tragic and ugly,” Smith says. “I wanted to look at where it began, at the innocence and purity that Elvis started with.”


It was in this early period that Elvis Presley came to Andy Warhol’s attention. Warhol received a postcard from some friends who were traveling in Paris; the picture on the card was a publicity shot of Elvis in the movie Flaming Star. Filmed in 1960, Elvis played a “half-breed” in this western drama, forced to choose between the white settlers and his mother’s Kiowa people. This image, preserved in The Warhol’s archives, was the source material for Warhol’s Elvis series and Elvis (Eleven Times), which is one of the artist’s most famous works and is one of the signature paintings in The Warhol’s permanent collection.


“Something about that postcard image captured Warhol’s imagination,” Smith says. Silkscreened on silver in 1963, the larger-than-life Elvis is depicted in the cowboy garb and dramatic pose of a Hollywood gunslinger. Legs spread in a steely stance, Elvis points his pistol and aims his most smoldering look of defiance at the adoring camera. “It fits with the other subjects Warhol was dealing with at the time, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe,” Smith says. “Warhol couldn’t have known in the early 60s the epic dimension all their lives would take, but he intuited their star-quality. Elvis was from such a humble background but how quickly he became a brand,” says Smith. “Elvis Presley, Campbell’s soup—both commodities in a way.”

Elvis Behind-the-Scenes

Many of the images displayed in Where is Elvis? date from the cusp of stardom, before Elvis became an instantly recognizable symbol. There are pictures of Elvis taken with his mother, Gladys, and in a doctor’s office when he was a teenager. There are shots of him performing in a high school gym, dancing, and mugging for the camera. Behind-the-scenes photographs capture life on the road in the early 1950s. Later images show him with Steve Allen, document his performances on the Ed Sullivan Show (where “Elvis the Pelvis” was only allowed to be shown from the waist up in his last appearance on the family program), and document the day he joined the army in 1958 when he was 23. There also are photos of Elvis on his wedding day, May 1, 1967, when he married Priscilla Beaulieu at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.


The pictures were taken by well-known photographers (Norman Bergsma, Roger Marshutz, Ernest Withers, Alfred Wertheimer and others), as well as AP and other wire service shooters whose names have long been forgotten. Although some of the images are printed on cheap photo stock and some are high quality, in each of the pictures, even the earliest, Elvis looks like he’s been styled by a Madison Avenue professional. The way he wore clothes made the garments look like they should be on runways next fall rather than on Memphis back roads 50 years ago. “His physical beauty was so compelling,” says Smith. “He was as gorgeous as Garbo.”


Celebrities and Their Art

Opening later in the summer, July 13 through October 5, visitors will continue their celebrity sightings with a pair of life-size sculptures made by contemporary artist Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett, depicting each other in the nude. Rendered in white marble and made between 2000 and 2002, an idealized reclining Fawcett looks much like she did in 1976 when she made her television debut in Charlie’s Angels.


An enhanced Edmier, standing, is handsomely done in bronze.  By providing a grown-up Edmier as mate to a 1970s Fawcett, the collaboration sustains the original fantasy, suggesting that past impressions are never wholly resolved. These works are the centerpiece of the Edmier and Fawcett 2002 exhibition that also includes drawings, photographs, and six other sculptures.


The project began in August 2000 after Edmier extended a formal invitation to Fawcett to join him in making a work of art. For Edmier, Fawcett was the ideal woman. During a two-year period of working together, the actress took an active role in the creation. This process threw into question distinctions between inspiration and collaboration, artist and muse. The results also examine the connection between celebrity and fan, projection and reality.


From Stardom to Supermarkets and Back Again

Also on view July 13 through October 5, will be a collaboration between the great names of Pop Art, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Artschwager, Robert Watts, and Tom Wesselman in a recreation of their installation, American Supermarket.  Originally presented at New York’s Bianchini Gallery in 1964, the exhibition is an evocation of an ordinary 1964 supermarket – complete with meat, cheese, and fruit counters, neon music, and jaunty background musak.  In the installation’s “aisles,” real foods are mixed together with iconic Pop works such as Warhol’s stacks of Campbell’s Soup cans and Robert Watt’s alluring chrome fruits and multi-colored wax eggs. Like Pop Art itself, The American Supermarket celebrates the spectacle of consumption and blurs the boundaries between art and everyday life.


A touch of fantasy also propels Clown Paintings: From the Collection of Diane Keaton and Others, an exhibition of 40 works of amateur clown paintings assembled by the actress during her visits to swap meets, flea markets, and garage sales, on view August  24 through October 26. Keaton is as obsessed with these emotional circus figures, by turns heartfelt and humorous, as Warhol was with the ceramic cookie jars and other kitsch he collected. 

Gordon Captures More Hollywood Glamour

More than a few gorgeous faces show up in the work of Scottish-born artist, Douglas Gordon when the exhibition Douglas Gordon: Blind Star goes on display June 15 through September 1.  Along with Where is Elvis?, The Warhol is also presenting a never-before-seen exhibition of more than 100 of Gordon’s collaged photographs of Hollywood glamour publicity stills featuring celebrities from the 1940s and 1950s, including Cary Grant, Kim Novak, Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe.


Concerned with media, communication technologies and representation, Gordon’s work explores themes such as trust, guilt, madness, confession, deception, and doubling, through film, video, and photography, and the use of appropriated material. Gordon is best-known for his video installations that manipulate and re-present classic Hollywood films such as Psycho and The Searchers, but he is equally active with photography and text works. Gordon is considered one of the most important artists of his generation, and he was awarded Tate Britain’s Turner Prize in 1996 for his innovative use of film, video, and text.


Taken together, these five summer exhibitions celebrate Andy Warhol’s passions and demonstrate how his legacy continues to permeate the art world nearly two decades after his death. Happy Birthday, Andy.


The 2003 exhibition program has been supported, in part, by The Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, Inc.





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