Andy Warhol: The Portfolios Showcases Print Retrospective
England’s oldest gallery, Dulwich Picture Gallery, in the quaint and cozy confines of South East London, is currently home to an exhibition of one of the 20th century’s most well-known — and most imitated — artists: Andy Warhol: The Portfolios.
There are surely few artists whose work is as immediately recognizable as Warhol’s, and perhaps because of this, the most interesting work displayed in The Portfolios is in fact the lesser-known material, which sits alongside iconic images that have almost lost their shine over the years, thanks to countless take-offs, ill-founded homages, and unashamed rip-offs.
Thus, while it’s always pleasing to view works like “Campbell’s Soup II” and “Marilyn,” the fact that these are displayed in the same room as Warhol’s raw screenprint of a newspaper photo from the 1964 Birmingham, Alabama, Race Riot — the polar opposite of the inherent glamour of Marilyn Munroe and the cartoon simplicity of the Campbell’s Soup cans — is a nice touch.
One thing that initially strikes the viewer, and lingers throughout the 80 prints in the gallery, is Warhol’s love for and use of colour. It’s evident in each of the four rooms that make up the small but well-formed Portfolios exhibition, but particularly in some of the flowers that Warhol prints — interestingly, though probably not intended as such, there is also an element of psychedelia to these images — and several others in Portfolios.
“Vesuvius” (pictured at top of page), proves a strangely compelling highlight, perhaps due to its playful experimentation with form and shape (again, a rarely seen side of Warhol), and its continuation of colourful themes, this time literally exploding from the volcano.
The final room of works, titled The Myth of Andy Warhol, proves the most varied and by far the most intriguing. It features paintings by Keith Haring depicting Warhol as a brightly coloured Mickey Mouse character (a wry comment on the popularity of the artist at the time), Warhol’s Endangered Species series of prints of endangered animals, and various photographic portraits, including several telling images of Warhol himself – sometimes half-disguised, sometimes staring into the camera with the stony look he became known for.
In many ways, Andy Warhol: The Portfolios is a subtle exhibition – an adjective not usually associated with Warhol – but all the better for it. The relative lack of status given to both the artist and his most famous pieces make for an appealing exhibition that showcases a rarely seen variety in Warhol’s work.
Andy Warhol: The Portfolios runs until September 16.