This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC – 12.03.2011
Pop artist Andy Warhol exhibited a life-long interest in news and news makers, a fascination that was reflected in much of his art over 3 decades. Whether it was small black and white pictures of news boxes or giant Warholian replicas of actual tabloid headlines, the daily news often served both as source and inspiration for the New-York based artist.
Today, we headed to the National Gallery of Art to view the exhibit Warhol: Headlines. Work there ranged from one of his first large prints of news tabloid material “A Boy for Meg” (1961) to his last 1980s TV shows for MTV Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes of Fame.
To me, the most captivating piece was a large work entitled “News Flash.” which transposed enlarged actual news flashes from those historic 3 November days in Dallas in 1963 when President John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, who, in turn, was gunned down by Jack Ruby as a stunned audience watched on national TV with screen shot prints of Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, in the colorful Warhol style.
It was the news and the handling of the same that moved Warhol to create the piece more than paying any tribute to the slain president. “I was thrilled having Kennedy as president. He was handsome, young, smart – but it doesn’t bother me much that he is dead.” Warhol once said. “What bothers me was the way television and radio was programming everybody to feel so sad. It seemed like no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from the thing.”
Ironically, in 1968, Warhol had his own brush with assassination and Kennedy death. Hanger-on Valerie Solonas asttacked Warhol, firing point blank at him with a pistol. Coming back from the edge of death in the hospital Warhol said “I heard a television going somewhere and the words ‘Kennedy’ and ‘assassin’ and ‘shot’ over and over again. Robert Kennedy had been shot, but what was so weird was that I had no understanding that this was a second Kennedy assassination. I just thought that maybe after you die, they rerun things for you, like President Kennedy’s assassination.”
To complete our DC day with Warhol we crossed the National Mall to the Hirshhorn Gallery of Modern Art to take in the companion show Andy Warhol Shadows, which features a pattern of a 100 large canvases with streaks and trails created by painting with a mop.
When Warhol himself hung that exhibit in New York in 1979 he said, “Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I said no. You see the opening party has disco and I guess that makes them disco decor.”
“The show will not be liked like all the others. The reviews will be bad – my reviews always are. But the review of the party will be terrific,” Warhol concluded.
Tales, Tips, and Traveling Tips
Both Warhol exhibits are temporary and will be gone from DC by mid January. However, if you have an interest in Warhol, his works, pop art, or the 60s, you can always visit the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the city of his birth. We’ve been there and the trip is worth it.