An intimate look at Andy Warhol's best-known subjects

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An intimate look at Andy Warhol's best-known subjects
Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987), Twenty Fuchsia Maos, 1979. Synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas, 39 ½ x 38 in. Hall Collection, courtesy Hall Art Foundation © 2024 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Hall Art Foundation.

GREENWICH, CT .- A new exhibition of Andy Warhol’s works on view at the Bruce Museum provides art enthusiasts the opportunity to see some of the 20th century’s most celebrated and quintessentially American images at an intimate scale.

“Andy Warhol: small is beautiful,” on view April 9-Oct. 13, invites viewers to look closely at iconic works in a more personal size—some as diminutive as 5-by-5 inches. The comprehensive exhibition includes nearly 100 paintings and sheds light on the working process of one of the leading figures of the Pop art movement.

“Even though he rose to prominence six decades ago, Warhol’s influence is still very much felt today,” said Margarita Karasoulas, curator of art at the Bruce. “His embrace of celebrity, consumer culture, everyday life and the commodification of art and fame was a precursor to the influencer era of today.”

Warhol used seriality, repetition, color and scale to explore his era and its ideas. Those tools are evident in key works in the exhibition, including an early iteration of “Campbell’s Soup Can” (1961). Featuring everyday objects with mass appeal, his iconic “Campbell’s Soup Cans” series (1962) was an example of the artist’s exploration of multiplicity and mechanical production techniques that included a complex, systematic painting process. Warhol later developed his now-signature silkscreen method. Appropriating from his own photographs as well as images circulating in mass media, he produced multiple versions of each picture, experimenting with different formats and colors of silkscreen ink and paint, an achievement he referred to as the “assembly-line effect.” The exhibition offers visitors a detailed look at one of the most recognizable elements of his practice.

The show also includes celebrated self-portraits and portraits of artists, friends, celebrities and political figures including Joseph Beuys, Roy Lichtenstein and Mao Zedong. His curiosity about fame and beauty, both his own looks and the appearance of others, developed in part during his childhood in Pittsburgh. Born in 1928 to immigrants from present-day Eastern Slovakia, Warhol (then Andrew Warhola) had Sydenham chorea. The disorder sometimes kept him home from school, where he would pass the time reading comics and Hollywood magazines. It was a formative experience for his growing aesthetic.

After attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Warhol dropped the “a” in Warhola and moved to New York City in 1949 to pursue a career in magazine and commercial illustration, which helped him discover art’s retail potential. Later, his work would blur the lines between art and commerce with images that were steeped in the era’s advertising, consumerism and mass media, challenging ideas of what constituted fine art and pop culture.

Warhol was interested in what was current, and mass consumerism is just one more theme. “Andy Warhol: small is beautiful” explores the artist’s relationship with Catholicism, nature, politics, identity and mortality and also reveals his engagement with abstraction and nonrepresentational subject matter. The exhibition includes the “Shadow Paintings,” “Oxidation” paintings and “Positive/Negative” series, lesser-known works from the final two decades of Warhol’s career that demonstrate his inventive style and lifelong passion for experimentation.

“There is a trajectory beyond his most popular works. In the exhibition, you can see the richness of his curiosity and the depth of his energy for exploring new themes, even when they might be controversial or perhaps especially if they were controversial,” Karasoulas said. “He was of his time and ahead of his time, and we think audiences will really feel a connection to these works because they deal with so many of the topics we are still addressing today in pop culture and fine art.”

“Andy Warhol: small is beautiful” is presented in partnership with the Hall Art Foundation and will be on view inside the Grossman Family Gallery and Barbara and Edward Netter Foundation Gallery at the Bruce Museum.

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