He was more than just soup cans.
The deep influence of his roots is plain in Andy Warhol:Revelation, a new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, that marries the Warhol we know with the one hiding in plain sight. The show examines no less than the concepts of life and death, power and desire, the role and representation of women, Renaissance imagery, family and immigrant traditions and rituals, depictions and duplications of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic body and queer desire.
The iconic 20th century artist achieved great fortune and celebrity in his lifetime, producing renderings of ordinary objects and famous faces in his “factory” – usually reproducing photos in eye-popping colors. But as it turned out, he also created art that drew heavily on his Roman Catholic upbringing, which co-existed, however uneasily, with a life spent as an unapologetic out gay man.
These works never achieved the great pop-culture status that accompanies his depictions of Campbell’s Soup cans or famous faces such as Marilyn Monroe’s, which have become an integral part of modern art as they play on themes of fame and commercialism. But now, the museum is giving the public an opportunity to examine Warhol in all his complexity. To discover the artist as the man he really was.
Although he reached the heights of success in his adopted New York City home, few people knew of his multifaceted work, combining religion with aspects of his day-to-day existence. And while it may come as a surprise to many, Warhol embraced some Roman Catholic ceremonies throughout his life, and played with styles and symbolism from Catholic art history, reframing them within the context of Pop Art and culture. Unsurprisingly, Biblical figures are presented as celebrities.
Among the more than 100 objects on view are rare source materials and newly discovered items that provide a fresh and intimate look at Warhol’s creative process, as well as major paintings from his epic 1986 Last Supper series. The visitor may view the artist’s experimental 1966 film “The Chelsea Girls,” and an unfinished film depicting the setting sun titled “Sunset” that was commissioned by the Menil family and originally funded by the Roman Catholic church. (The Vatican later withdrew from the project for reasons that are unclear). “Sunset” includes a soundtrack by Warhol superstar Nico. There also are drawings created by Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola, during the time she lived with her son in New York City.
Warhol was born in Pittsburgh as Andrew Warhola Jr. in 1928 to parents who emigrarated to the United States from what is now known as Eastern Slovakia in the early 1920s. He died in a New York City hospital in 1987 at age 58, from complications following gall bladder surgery.
Had he lived, who knows what masterpieces he might have authored? This Exhibition gives clues to the greatness we lost, too soon.
The Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 11238
presents Andy Warhol: Revelation now until June 19, 2022.
“The Chelsea Girls” is screened twice daily at 11:15 a.m. and 3 p.m.