You wouldn’t know it from looking at the guy, but pop artist Andy Warhol was obsessed with the rough and rugged American West.
âWhen he died, his estate found 27 pairs of cowboy boots,â says Emily Kapes, art curator at the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art. âHe wore them almost every day.
Opening Saturday at the James Museum, West of Warhol collects original serigraphs of works spanning Warhol’s career, specifically the last thing he worked on before his untimely death in 1987, a series titled Cowboys and Indians.
Warhol, whose famous mantra was that everything, art included, was more or less disposable, had been fascinated by the mythology of Western film and television as a young man in the 1940s and 1950s. ” If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and here I am, âhe said. “There is nothing behind it.”
The James exhibition includes 69 works; most are from a private collection and the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. The James team supplemented them with other pieces.
The most famous pop artist in history used existing photographs, or other iconography, and applied color, movement and repetition to create something completely new.
Along with historical figures Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Theodore Roosevelt and Annie Oakley, he made art from photos of Howdy Doody, John Wayne and, typical of the Warholian sense of humor, actress Margaret Hamilton in the role of the wicked witch of the west.
West of Warhol also includes the artist’s reimagining of a portrait of 1970s Native American activist Russell Means.
With an image of Elvis Presley as an angry “half-breed” in the movie Blazing star.
âI think he made the art relevant and people really liked it,â Kapes says. âHe was really able to invigorate the source images he was using. As you walk through the exhibit you will see his Polaroids, see the old photographs and see what he did with them as a silkscreen print.
âHe was truly a wonderful colourist. He had an eye, and he was very creative. I think people will relate to the imagery – and that’s something funny. “
One gallery wall is made up of a silkscreen timeline – visitors can observe the various painstaking steps involved in creating one of Warhol’s colorful images.
There is also a âMake Your Own Warholâ selfie camera, which colors your (multiple) image, Andy’s style, then emails it to you. The technology is very similar to that of the gift shop at the Dali Museum, where the famous (and long-dead) artist “poses for a photo” with museum guests.
For the director of the James Museum Laura Hine, West of Warhol is just part of a long story she wants to tell.
âOur next exhibition is called Far from home, and this is Indian residential schools, âHine says. âThis is going to be an extremely powerful and important – and painful – exhibition.
âThis (the Warhol exhibit) is, for me, a chance to have a good time while showcasing the West. Many, many people know Andy Warhol.
James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art website.