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Andy Warhol comes to ND

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When you think of Andy Warhol, one of the first images that pops into your head is probably a Campbell’s Soup can or an image of Marilyn Monroe.  And the PopArt pioneer is best known for these images.  An exhibit at the Snite Museum, which runs through Nov. 13, offers a look into a unique and relatively unknown side of Warhol with the exhibit, Warhol’s Camera.

This exhibit comprises a collection of Polaroids and gelatin silver prints, which the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts donated to the Snite in 2008.  These rare photographs provide fantastic examples of Warhol’s use of photography in the last ten years of his career.  The exhibit highlights the residency of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Debartolo Performing Arts Center.

Cunningham, an American dancer and choreographer, and Warhol were good friends in the post-war era. Both pioneered new and innovative forms of art in their respective fields by incorporating new media and exploring the relationship between different genres and art forms. Warhol also further tested the traditional limits of genre through revolutionary collaborations with Merce Cunningham.

Curator Maria Di Pasquale describes the photographs as occupying a distinct place in Warhol’s works.

“They are both artworks and biographical documents,” she said in a description of the exhibit. “In addition, they provide an interesting view into Warhol’s view of fame and a look into his personal vision.  The prints and Polaroids allow the viewer to look through the camera as Warhol.

“When the sitter looks out, he or she is looking at Warhol and responding to him,” Di Pasquale said. “The relaxed naturalness of the celebrity subjects of his candid photos is a direct reflection of their comfort and intimacy with Andy himself.  The photos provide an intimate view into Warhol’s life and vision.”

Warhol’s Camera includes a gorgeous and entrancing screen print of Merce Cunningham, emphasizing the relationship between the two artists.  That image is one of the first you see as you enter the exhibit, but your eyes are also drawn to the captivating gelatin prints, and then to the engaging faces in the Polaroids.  

Some black and white, some color, the gelatin silver prints show a simple look at Warhol’s vision.  From scenes of party life to still life, the prints record events in Warhol’s daily life, which complement his diary entries that describe his social life in detail.  Ordinary objects, like a bedroom or a china pitcher, are transformed into novel items through Warhol’s vision.

The Polaroids represent the most captivating and interesting part of the exhibit. They capture images of celebrities like Jane Fonda, Jack Nicklaus and Giorgio Armani, as well as shots of children.  Some subjects are identified, but some identities have been lost, which provides a unique equalizing effect to the collection.  Unidentified children and adults sit next to some of the most famous faces of Warhol’s generation, both demanding the same amount of attention.

Gina Costa of the Snite recommends that all in the Notre Dame and surrounding community take advantage of this exceptional collection while it remains on view at the Snite.

“This is a unique chance for the university community to view not only the Polaroids, but also these beautiful gelatin silver prints that show a side of Andy Warhol that I don’t think a lot of people know,” Costa said. “These are real intimate, sensitive images [referring to the gelatin prints], and then these Polaroids, like the medium itself, are so spontaneous of his friends and other dignitaries.”

Andy Warhol was an amazingly complex artist, and Warhol’s Camera at the Snite offers a fantastic glance into a side of the artist that many people do not know.  The exhibit will be open until Nov. 13 and admission is free.

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