Framing Andy Warhol
U.Va. Art Museum shows collection of portraits and snapshots by post-modern master
Old-school glamour made its appearance at the University's Art Museum Jan. 14 when photography by Andy Warhol came to town. The Andy Warhol Foundation in Pittsburgh, Pa. gave more than 28,000 photographs to 200 museums across the nation. The pieces on display include the Polaroids that later became his iconic, four-color silk-screen portraits and snapshots from Warhol's photographic diary (1975-1980). The photos are striking in their variety of style and technique and prominently feature both celebrity and unknown subjects.
"These photographs are like a time capsule of New York in the 1970s and '80s," curator Matthew Affron said of the collection. "My favorites are pictures of celebrities like Debbie Harry and Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz ... Many are spontaneous, candid snapshots of places he was and the people he saw there, and then there are the studies for portraits, so it's this back and forth between the posed and the unposed."
The photos also span across times in Warhol's life, reflecting the crowds that he was hobnobbing with at the time.
"Warhol was part of the New York underground scene along with performers of all kinds," Affron said.
For example, the photo of his friend and drag performer Jackie Curtis, captioned "Member of bohemian countercultural inner circle," displays Warhol's ties to this underground scene. Warhol's foray into jet-setting celebrity culture during the 1970s, however, is also catalogued in the photographs.
"Warhol would shoot a roll of film every day since 1975," Affron said. "These photographs are a window into his social life."
Another interesting aspect of the exhibit is Warhol's depiction of gender in his portraits.
"He has a particular way of depicting the female portrait - or rather female glamour - with heavy makeup and a focus on the appeal of this glamour," Affron said. "Men are depicted with masculine suaveness, in business attire and posed with their hands, to give personality."
Luckily for fans of Warhol, the photographs will remain a part of the museum's permanent collection.
"We will continue to show parts of it and use it for teaching and so forth," Affron said.
The exhibit, which will show two-thirds of the 152-photograph collection, will run until June 5.