Andy Warhol once said, "When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships."
Delivered in Warhol's characteristic deadpan, this might be the motto for our media-saturated generation, the consumer-worshipping culture that pays more attention to celebrity than humanity, to the packaging of popular culture than to history itself.
Warhol brilliantly prophesied and captured the culture of pop consumption in his large-scale silkscreen prints, a large portion of which currently are on display at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Andy Warhol's Dream America spans the length of Warhol's career and fills five of the museum's main galleries. From the collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, these screenprints represent most of Warhol's major print series.
Born in 1928 to poor Czechoslovakian immigrants, Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, where he pursued art at an early age and eventually graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon). He became a popular and successful commercial artist in New York City in the 1950s and then turned to his own work, raising the art of screenprinting to a new level in the 1960s. In a large industrial building on East 47th Street, he established what he called "The Factory," a place where bohemians collaborated in creating Warhol's prints, paintings, films and, eventually, in another building, his magazine, Interview.
We've all seen so many of these images reprinted that their familiarity influences how we see them hanging on the gallery walls. In general, they are far more impressive as works of fine art shown at full size, in the brilliant saturated colors of their initial printings. There's an entire wall of 10 Marilyn Monroes (1967), variously colored, ironic and arresting.
The famed Campbell's Soup prints (1968) are on display as well, putting the pop in art with their bright, cheerful and photo-realistic representation. Several of Warhol's screenprints of Jackie Kennedy (1965-66) juxtapose the radiant, beaming bride of JFK with the shocked, expressionless young widow. "Flash," a series of 11 screenprints (1968) depicting the short intensity of the JFK presidency and the media event that was his assassination, hangs in the show as well.
"Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century" (1980) is an impressive series of screenprint portraits of such icons as Gertrude Stein, Albert Einstein, The Marx Brothers and Golda Meir. "Cowboys and Indians" (1986), Warhol's last significant series before his death in 1987, includes images of the mythical West, including John Wayne, Annie Oakley, Geronimo and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as a gorgeous, brightly colored print called "Mother and Child."
Scattered throughout the show are several of Warhol's self-portraits, many of his quotes about art and contemporary culture, and a variety of video presentations designed to introduce patrons to the artist and his time, and to show some of his work on film. Also on display are Warhol's Mao series (1972-74) and many of his commissioned portraits of Mick Jagger (1975).
While you're at the Fine Arts Center, check out the Ron Brasch Collection, a fine exhibit of post-World War II contemporary art that includes pieces by Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Joan Mir and many others.
-- Kathryn Eastburn
Andy Warhol's Dream America
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Show runs through Dec. 31.
Admission is free for FAC members; $10 for adult non-members; $7 for seniors, kids 13-17 and student non-members with ID; $5 for kids 3-12.
For a full schedule of events related to the exhibit, visit csfineartscenter.org.