Andy Warhol; Triple Mona Lisa, 1963. Photo: © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Private Collection, New York / Photo: Tim Nighswander
Andy Warhol Is Reentering the Spotlight Like Never Before
Two highly anticipated new shows—one focusing on his female portraits, the other on drawings—offer diverse, less familiar explorations of the artist’s work
By Liddy Berman, Architectural Digest
April 24, 2019
If the Whitney Museum’s Warhol retrospective closing has left you craving more Pop masterpieces, you’re in luck. There’s much more where that came from. “Warhol speaks to our time,” says Donna de Salvo, curator of the Whitney Museum’s blockbuster Warhol retrospective From A to B and Back Again, of the new interest in the artist. “There’s something about the way he addresses so many aspects of the American situation. Capitalism and celebrity have reached a fever pitch in ways that maybe even he couldn’t have imagined.”
Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Gertrude Stein, and the Mona Lisa, replicated and reimagined through Factory-made silkscreens, share the stage graciously at Lévy Gorvy’s new “Warhol Women” show. “You’re always hearing about women artists, women writers,” says gallery owner Dominique Lévy. “Rather than being progressive, we’re looking at women backward instead of forward. Warhol’s way of looking at women felt timely—he could portray women from the eye of a man without sexualizing the image.”
There’s beauty in these portraits, but there’s more than that. On one hand, they can be seen almost as religious icons, women to be worshipped. On the other, they’re representations of brands—both their own and Warhol’s—embodying so many things that our society craves: fame, beauty, success, renown.
When repeated, the images take on new meaning. “With repetition, Warhol was looking at the importance of photography, making a play on art history,” explains Lévy. These images, filtered and reproduced, will resonate with any Instagram user. A 20-panel portrait of Miriam Davidson, commissioned as a wedding gift, was “an interactive commission,” Lévy says. “Warhol instructed her to visit a photo booth and take several images of herself. He took two of these images and made 20 canvases of these photo-booth moments. If you think of the selfie, this is completely extraordinary for the time.”
At Sperone Westwater’s “By Hand: Part II, Drawings 1950s–1960s,” opening April 25, curator Vincent Fremont, who worked closely with Warhol for nearly two decades, draws out a lesser-known side of the artist. “People don’t see these drawings very often,” he says. “And he did drawings his entire life.” These early works reflect the diversity of Warhol’s interests: Shoes and handbags commingle with showgirls, religious icons, and an elegantly drawn array of feet. “He got a lot of people to take their shoes off,” Fremont recalls. “He got a lot of people to take their clothes off too.”
Indeed, the sketched portraits of male nudes from this period reveal Warhol’s personal life more intimately than much of his other work. There’s a tender vulnerability in the young man who crosses his arms across his body, his watch the only thing covering his flesh. “These are straight from life,” Fremont explains. “In the ’50s, his process was working from life, having people, mostly males, pose for him. And he used a lot of images from Life magazine, the beginning of his work becoming photographically based.”
“Warhol used images in a truly creative way,” says Whitney curator De Salvo. “He was a great social observer, an insider and an outsider, very similar to digital interaction today. His whole project really took that on, and that’s why his work remains timeless, remains present.”
Warhol Women runs April 25–June 15 at Lévy Gorvy, 909 Madison Avenue, New York City.
By Hand: Part II, Drawings 1950s–1960s runs April 25–June 29 at Sperone Westwater, 257 Bowery, New York City.