Andy Warhol: Prints from the Cochran Collection

Warhol2014-FCMOAOn December 13, the Fort Collins Museum of art will open a major exhibition of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) prints from the Cochran Collection.  The exhibition will run through March 16, 2014.  The exhibition includes works from various periods of the artist’s career and features complete sets of his prints from the important Myths and Cowboys and Indians series. The collection also includes two versions of Moonwalk and images of the famous from Mick Jagger to Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.  Acrylics, silkscreens, and one drawing created between 1974 and 1987 are included.

Warhol is recognized as one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century.  In 2012 art critic Rachel Wolff wrote in Art News:   “His themes, processes, personas, and approach to making art are evident in everything from the ready-mades and Pop portraits of his direct descendents to the work of some of the most boundary-pushing conceptualists, abstract painters, and video artists working today….Warhol remains…the major touchstone for contemporary art.”

Born into a middle-class family of Czech immigrants, Warhol moved to Manhattan after college.  There, he became a central figure in the Pop Art movement that included artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg.  He championed the use of the silk screening technique that allowed him to make multiple prints of one image quickly and mechanically.  Warhol’s aluminum foil-and-silver-paint-lined studio on 47th Street (later moved to Broadway) was home to the eccentric bohemian culture in the 1960’s and 1970’s and an assortment of celebrities, drug addicts, filmmakers, musicians and drag queens were frequent visitors.

Well known for his portrayal of celebrities and everyday consumer goods (such as the Campbell’s Soup Cans and Brillo Boxes), later in his career Andy Warhol became engaged with the stories, myths and legends of the American West. As one of his last works in 1986, he created the portfolio Cowboys and Indians.

Cowboys and Indians pays homage to America’s popular version of Western history. Warhol depicts American heroes of the West; General Custer, Teddy Roosevelt and Geronimo, and Western entertainers; Annie Oakley and John Wayne. His depictions of the Indian Head Nickel, Plains Indian Shield, Mother and Child, Kachina Dolls, and Northwest Coast Mask are examples of romanticized, stereotyped and exploited images of American Indians.

From the 1960s on, Andy Warhol exhibited an unerring sense for the powerful motifs of his time – contemporary images that capture the modern imagination as completely as the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology once did.  In Myths, Warhol’s 1981 portfolio of 10 screenprints, he was referring not to remote civilizations, but to the beginnings of the cinema and the imaginary characters loved and recognized by millions all over the world.  Most images in Warhol’s Myths series are taken from old Hollywood films or 1950s television and portray the universal view of America’s once enchanted and powerful past.  Included in the series are characters loved by children such as Mickey Mouse, and Howdy Doody, as well as fictional figures like Dracula, The Wicked Witch of the West, and Uncle Sam.

Between 1963 and 1968, Warhol produced nearly 650 films, including hundreds of silent Screen Tests, or portrait films, and dozens of full-length movies, in styles ranging from minimalist avant-garde to commercial “sexploitation.” Warhol’s films have been highly regarded for their radical explorations beyond the frontiers of conventional cinema. With works such as Empire (1964), his notorious eight-hour film of the Empire State Building, My Hustler (1965), a social comedy about gay life on Fire Island, and the double-screen The Chelsea Girls (1966), the first avant-garde film to achieve extensive commercial exhibition, Warhol redefined the film-going experience for a wide range of audiences and attracted serious critical attention as well as much publicity. In 1970, the artist withdrew his films from distribution; for the next twenty years, most critics and scholars could only reconstruct these works from reviews and other verbal accounts.  FCMOA is collaborating with Lyric Cinema Café to present three Warhol films:  Vinyl (1965) on January 9; Screen Test 2 (1965) on February 6; and The Velvet Underground and Nico (1966) on March 6.  The Velvet Underground and Nico is particularly timely for audiences due to the recent passing of Lou Reed, who was the leader of The Velvet Underground and a highly-respected and influential musician.

Andy Warhol is of special interest to Fort Collins due to his visit to the CSU campus from August 31st to September 2, 1981 at the invitation art collectors and Aspen residents, John and Kimiko Powers.  He arrived in Fort Collins with John Denver on Denver’s private plane.  After dinner with CSU’s president, Chris Christoffersen, Warhol went to the CSU campus to see the show of his work on view at the CSU museum. In an August 31, 1981 diary entry, Warhol described the event:
After dinner he [Christoffersen] took us to the museum so we could see the show before anybody else did.  In front of the museum they have three cans that are about thirty feet high and they look like big sculptures by Oldenburg, big handpainted Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cans.  One of the kids did them, I guess.  And every room here at the motel is cans with flowers in them, and I mean, I’m so tired of the Campbell’s Soup Can I could throw up.  But the show’s cute, it’s just in one room and its all prints, and we stayed there about an hour then I got back and took a Valium and I couldn’t sleep.

Warhol signed the soup cans and today one of them stands in front of the Art Museum on the CSU campus.

Denver photographer Mark Sink met Warhol during his visit to CSU and ended up spending time with Warhol and his entourage. A selection of the photographs of Warhol in Fort Collins by Mark Sink will be displayed in FCMOA’s gallery 101 along with a documentary video about Warhol.

This exhibition is presented through the generous support of EKS&H, The Fort Fund, and The Sue Shannon Art Education Fund.