Warhol’s Art and Legacy Comes to UMass Gallery

By Samantha Marsh

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Correction appended

The University of Massachusetts will be showcasing the works of Andy Warhol and related artists at the University Gallery, beginning today, Sept. 23.

There are two exhibits which will be displayed at the Gallery: “The Minox & the Big Shot: Andy Warhol’s Photography (1970-87)” and “Connecting the Dots …The Warhol Legacy: Tom Friedman, Ellen Gallagher, Vik Muniz and Rob Pruitt.” The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program has donated over 100 Polaroid pictures and 50 black-and-white photographs to the University, according to Kathleen Banach, a 2009 UMass graduate with a degree in art history.

“[The program] is designed to grant the public greater access to this little-known body of work,” said Banach in literature regarding the displays.

According to Loretta Yarlow, University Gallery director, the Legacy Program requested that UMass create an ongoing potential exhibit for student research. The Legacy Program was then created so that Warhol’s photography could become better known in academia. Photographs are donated in hopes to spark student interest and discussion about Warhol and his work.

UMass has hired several interns to work with the Gallery on this project. While some are pursuing degrees in art history, many interns come from other academic backgrounds.

“We get students from all over,” said Yarlow. “One of our tour guides is pre-med!”

Interns were stationed at the gallery over the summer working with the installation manager framing and mounting photographs. As a graduate intern, Banach researched the works and wrote several pieces of literature about the exhibit.

Warhol is globally recognized as a leader in the creation of “pop art.” His portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as his classic paintings of the Campbell Soup Can and the Coca Cola Bottles, are speculated as earning him this fame. The American Supermarket exhibit of 1964 also popularized Warhol. Much of his photography, however, has been unnoticed by the general public. It is important for art lovers to see these photographs, as they provide a peek into the life of Warhol.

“The Minox & the Big Shot, Andy Warhol’s Photography (1970-87),” is the first display visible to viewers as they enter the gallery. This exhibit highlights some of Warhol’s best work, some which have been rarely seen by the public, ranging from celebrity shots to photographs of strangers in the streets.

Although the exhibit features some of Warhol’s famous portraits such as that of Ted Kennedy and Carly Simon, Yarlow prefers the black-and-white photography, and believes that the street photography gives a deeper glimpse into Warhol’s life by allowing viewers to see firsthand the people he met and the places he has gone.

“It’s like a diary of Warhol’s daily activities,” said Yarlow.

Other works at the exhibit include a stunning photo of a car embedded in snow, entitled “Cars in Snow,” done in 1983. Beverly Chalfen, done in 1882, is a particularly striking black-and-white portrait of an average older woman; however, her lips are bright red in color. It seems that this photograph is displaying the vibrancy of someone who may otherwise appear ordinary. These photographs enhance the apparent “everyday life” theme of the exhibit.

The second exhibit, “Connecting the Dots … the Warhol Legacy: Tom Friedman, Ellen Gallagher, Vik Muniz & Rob Pruitt,” showcases four artists whose work explores similar themes as Warhol’s. Tom Friedman and Rob Pruitt are both highly esteemed in the art world and have exhibited at famous museums around the country.

“We are really excited about their work,” said Yarlow.

Tom Friedman is known for his transformation of everyday products into astounding pieces of art. Featured at the exhibit is his “Dollar Bill” piece, done in 2000.  Friedman creates a blurred effect of a blown up dollar bill, perhaps creating a message about the absurdness of money. Pruitt, another creative pop artist, catches viewers’ eyes with his large, vibrant display of photographs taken with an iPhone.

Gallagher’s pieces are defined by the numerous mediums that she uses to create her work. In one photo, “Deluxe (2004-05),” Gallagher uses over 25 different mediums, ranging from enamel to toy eyeballs.

Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s work is guided by the media and popular culture, according to a press release about the exhibit. “The Best of Life (1989-2000),” which includes photographs of drawings he sketched from memory of Life Magazine photographs, is featured at the exhibit. The four artists’ works relate closely to Warhol’s, creating complementary exhibits.

At 6:30 p.m., Banach and contemporary art professor Mario Ontiveros will speak about the research and work that was put into the exhibit. Guest artists Friedman and Pruitt are scheduled to speak later in the semester. The University Gallery opens its doors for viewing the exhibits tonight from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. The exhibit will continue to be on display for the remainder of the semester.

Samantha Marsh can be reached at [email protected].

An article about the University Gallery’s Andy Warhol event incorrectly identified a 2009 UMass graduate itern who researched Warhol’s works and wrote several pieces about the exhibit. The correct spelling of her name is Kathleen Banach. We regret the error.