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Arty Pants: Warhol on the Mall

Arty Pants
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I’m not a big Andy Warhol fan. Frankly, I think there’s just too much of it, and inevitably some of it is crap. But I have seen some of his amazing stuff, like the exhibit at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago, where they wrapped the columns of the National Gallery of Scotland in Campbell’s Soup cans. Or the few pieces in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof museum. Those were pretty grand.

That's my brother in Berlin, with Mao
That’s my brother in Berlin, with Mao

For some reason, the Warhol stuff that’s brought to this area isn’t the best of his best. Last year, I visited the “The Last Decade” exhibit in Baltimore’s Gallery of Art. It was a strange collection of his work, mostly his camo pieces and a couple monster paintings, which looked rather like he was on some sort of psychedelic drugs, slapping paint on the walls and occasionally pissing on them (seriously).

So, being the European art snob I am, my expectations weren’t that high for the two new Warhol exhibits that just opened up in D.C. I left it until last Saturday to visit them, tottering through the drizzling rain to the museums after brunch with some girlfriends.

First we stopped in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building for the “Headlines” exhibit. Centered around Warhol’s obsession with the tabloids, the exhibit opens up with his paintings of newspaper covers, including “A Boy For Meg.” To me, it looked as if he was copying newspapers as an art exercise, and that some of these, especially the half-finished ones, shouldn’t have been let out of his studio. And I think I’m onto something: Of the 80 pieces, about 40 percent of them have not been shown publicly.

Warhol "A Boy For Meg"
Warhol “A Boy For Meg”

The exhibit then continues on to his wacky TV programming and collaborations with Jean Michel-Basquiat. And it’s sort of interesting to see how he cropped into newspaper covers to juxtapose sad headlines to happy headlines (smart, I guess, but not really).

The best pieces are at the very end of the two-level exhibit, the ones where he turned over his newspaper paintings to friend Keith Haring, who manipulates them, Haring-style, into bright, intricate pieces that you just want to stare at (they were wedding gifts to Madonna for her marriage to Sean Penn. That lucky bitch).

Andy Warhol and Keith Haring Untitled (Madonna, I'm Not Ashamed), 1985 synthetic polymer, Day-Glo, and acrylic on canvas 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.) Collection Keith Haring Foundation, New York © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation (Reproduction, including downloading of Andy Warhol works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York).
Andy Warhol and Keith Haring Untitled (Madonna, I’m Not Ashamed), 1985 synthetic polymer, Day-Glo, and acrylic on canvas 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.) Collection Keith Haring Foundation, New York © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation (Reproduction, including downloading of Andy Warhol works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York).

Afterwards, I trudged across the muddy National Mall to the Hirshhorn, where another Warhol exhibit just opened. This one is the polar opposite of the frenetic media studies happening over in the NGA. It is so vastly different, in fact, that it calmed me down from my Warhol loathing.

The Hirshhorn exhibit is simply this: a series of 102 paintings of a shadow, one next to another, lining 450 feet of the outer wall of the second floor of the museum.

Because the museum is cylindrical, you can start at one end and slowly walk past the entire spectrum of shadows. The walls, floors, and ceilings are white, per usual, so the focus is on the art, and it’s quite a calming, panoramic experience. Even if he did use a mop to paint them.

Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978-79. Dia Art Foundation. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Photo: Cathy Carver.
Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978-79. Dia Art Foundation. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Photo: Cathy Carver.

Besides this series, and Warhol’s self portrait at the very beginning of the exhibit, there is nothing else to the exhibit, and that is rather refreshing. (Well, there is a film festival and a series of talks being held, see all the “Warhol on the Mall” details here).

You can nip in and out and see it quickly, and I recommend you do that—it’s the first and only time all of the shadows have been on display together.

“Headlines” is at the National Gallery of Art through January 2.

“Shadows” is at the Hirshhorn Museum through January 15.

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2 thoughts on “Arty Pants: Warhol on the Mall”

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  1. Ladies, I LOVE the blog, but can we please get some more brunch reviews? Seems like this has turned into a lifestyle blog (which are fun too, but everyone does those!)

  2. Hi Katie!
    Thanks for the support! Unfortunately, we post every weekday (5 days) and there are usually only 2 days of brunch every weekend! 🙁 We do our best to make sure there are a few brunch reviews each week, and we throw in our Monday “This Week”s, event recaps and fashion posts so our readers get the best of brunch, style and the latest and greatest in Washington.

    That being said, we have about 5 mouth-watering brunch reviews coming up this week and next, so please check back!

    Best,
    Cori Sue

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