Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
BEACH MUSEUM TURNS ITS EYE TO ANDY WARHOL'S LENS
MANHATTAN -- In the early 1970s Andy Warhol purchased a Polaroid Big Shot camera, a bulky, unreliable piece of equipment that brought its subject into focus from a distance of only three feet. It was from this vantage point that the voyeuristic artist turned his lens on all he knew, from celebrities and socialites to politicians.
"Big Shots: Andy Warhol Photographs of the '70 & '80s" is now on display through April 3 at Kansas State University's Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.
The exhibition includes selections from 100 Polaroids and 56 black-and-white images donated to the museum in 2008 by the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program, a division of the Andy Warhol Foundation in New York. The donation was part of a larger gift of 28,000 photographs to nearly 200 U.S. institutions in recognition of the foundation's 20th anniversary.
From his childhood Warhol was obsessed with fame and beauty. He collected many photographs of celebrities. After 1976 he was never without a camera. He took nearly a roll of film a day, leaving more than 60,000 photographs in his estate. The Beach Museum of Art's photographs were made by Warhol between 1971 and 1987, the year of his death. During this period the artist was at the height of his fame and notoriety.
The Pittsburgh native began his career in commercial advertisement in New York and was instantly recognized for his unique style. Nearly all of the screen printed images of celebrities and commercial products, including his iconic soup cans and Coca Cola bottles, for which he became known, were based on photography, whether taken by him or found in newspaper archives and magazines.
The Beach Museum show illustrates the artist's practices as a photographer: his request that his Polaroid subjects sit in a chair in his studio and wear a thick coat of white make-up; his habit of hiding behind a mobile camera at social events; and quieter moments when he trained his lens on inanimate objects such as a pair of shoes -- the subject of an early commercial art assignment.
One Polaroid in the Beach Museum collection shows Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in MGM's 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz," in costume. Hamilton was one of Warhol's famous neighbors. Another black-and-white print presents party companion Bianca Jagger, whom Warhol met in 1971 after she and Mick Jagger were married. Warhol described her as, besides himself, one of the most "socially diseased" people he knew, always wanting to go out and "make a big, dramatic entrance."
For more information about the exhibition, contact Martha Scott at the Beach Museum of Art at 785-532-7718 or drop by the museum on the southeast corner of the K-State campus at 14th Street and Anderson Avenue. Free visitor parking is available next to the building. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.