By Crissy Neville
Before Madonna and Michael Jackson rose to pop culture stardom, there was Andy Warhol. Albeit an artist instead of a musician, Warhol enjoyed a similar fame and following that endures today. Art aficionados will be able to see some of the pop art icon’s work when Methodist University brings “Gallery Goes Pop: Warhol” to its David McCune International Art Gallery February 7 through April 12.
Pop Art was a visual art movement that flourished in the 1960s. A nod to the times, the style focused on mass production, celebrity culture and the expanding media industry, bringing a new identity to the field of art and design.
Characterized by brash, bold, colorful and often humorous artwork, Pop Art incorporated different styles of painting, prints, collage and commercial art. Andy Warhol was one of the most influential artists of the Pop Art movement, and arguably the best known.
As an artist, Warhol portrayed cultural and consumer images primarily using silk-screen printing but he was also an acclaimed film director and producer. The artist, who died in 1987, became famous for his representations of everyday objects such as Campbell’s Soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. He was also known for his dramatic portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy. His work allows a view into the culture of his day, from the ’60s through the early ’80s.
“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do,” he once explained.
The McCune Gallery exhibition will include 34 Warhol masterworks on loan from The Cochran Collection in Georgia and from the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill. Pieces in the show will include prints of everything from real-life icons Paloma Picasso and Grace Kelly to cartoon characters Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and more. The works represent several of Warhol’s famed portfolios, such as the Dracula print from the Myths series and the Annie Oakley image from the Cowboys and Indians series.
The exhibit has something for everyone, says Silvana M. Foti, the gallery’s executive director.
“The show has a selection of pieces that are fun and whimsical and will make you smile,” she said. “The diversity of the portfolio will give the viewer a glimpse into Warhol’s life and who he was as an artist. Anyone and everyone can identify with these images.”
Warhol indeed presents a slice of America in every work. Fans of comic-book legends may be drawn to the print of Superman while Wild West enthusiasts may enjoy the portrait of Sitting Bull. If stars of the big screen strike your fancy, you may like Warhol’s depictions of Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman. If politics is your bag, the McCune Gallery exhibit will have Warhol’s Teddy Roosevelt and JFK. Sad the holidays are over? Come gaze upon old Father Christmas himself with Warhol’s Santa Claus.
Getting the Warhol exhibition is a major coup for the McCune Gallery and the deal was two to three years in the making. The Gallery hosts two public displays a year, a regional show of artists in the fall and a major exhibition each winter.
“It is all a part of the mission of the McCune Gallery, to educate and to bring cultural experiences through art to the public of both national and international levels. We are happy we have been able to bring name-brand artists to Fayetteville,” Foti said. “Now, to have a solo exhibition like the Warhol – those are harder to secure and we are very excited.”
Matt Leclercq, an advisory board member of the David McCune International Art Gallery, agrees.
“Bringing an Andy Warhol exhibit to Fayetteville is a big deal,” he said. “He is perhaps the most famous and iconic American artist of the 20th century. If you have no connections to Methodist University, you may not even know the gallery exists. But the gallery is such an important part of the arts and culture in our community. This will be a world-class exhibit with more than 30 silk-screen prints by Warhol, including several you will easily recognize.”
Two grants helped secure the necessary funding for the show. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County and the Cumberland County Tourism Development Authority awarded grants to the McCune Gallery to support marketing and advertising. Sponsorships of individual exhibit prints have been another source of fundraising, along with a gala hosted on November 29 at Studio 215 downtown.
About 100 gala attendees enjoyed a catered meal, signature cocktails, desserts, music, silent and live auctions and more. Studio 215 was transformed into Warhol's Midtown Manhattan loft art studio dubbed The Factory, the place where he created many of his most recognizable works and held lavish parties with movie stars, models and artists. It was also the performance venue of The Velvet Underground, a band Warhol briefly managed. The scene was set through recreated vignettes, 1960s music and fun features like mylar balloons and a silver screen photo booth.
Guests were encouraged to dress “formal, funky or flashy,” according to Foti, either as the artist himself or as one of the subjects who inspired his art. Prizes went to the most creative dressers. Partygoers were also able to bid on artwork from local and national artists, entertainment and gift packages, and get a sneak peek at the Warhol works to come in February.
“The event was a huge success,” Foti said, “We met our goal to introduce new people to the McCune Gallery and get excitement up for both Warhol and future shows. Traditionally, we have had cocktail parties for fundraising events but Warhol was not your traditional cocktail party kind of guy.”
Foti is expecting the exhibit to draw large crowds. The show will open with a reception on February 7 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and will feature Nicole Dezelon, assistant director of learning at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol’s hometown. Dezelon will give a public talk at 7:15 on the opening night, followed the next day by a lecture and workshop on the silk-screen printing process. Dezelon is also training all exhibit docents prior to the opening date. The exhibit will be open in the McCune Gallery on the Methodist campus every Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., with extended hours on Thursday evenings until 7 p.m., and also Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m. The gallery is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
In addition to the much-anticipated prints, guests can also enjoy a multimedia presentation of excerpts of selected Warhol films. iPad kiosks will beckon viewers to peek into Warhol’s artistic expressions in film while period music plays in the background to round out the senses.
To get the full effect, you will need to come to experience the art yourself. Come and become a part of the fun and fantasy that is the world of Warhol.