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