Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Left photo: David Graham, Right photo: Nathan Benn

Philadelphia, PA



Andy Warhol: Social Observer


"Andy Warhol: Social Observer" opens June 17 and runs through September 21, 2000 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. This major exhibition examines an aspect of Warhol's work and career that has never been fully explored in a museum setting: the depth and variety of the artist's critical observations of American society, and the ways in which his strategies of observation changed over the course of his career.

"Andy Warhol: Social Observer" focuses on what the artist looked at, how he looked at these subjects and, in certain situations, how he himself was perceived by the society so inclined to keep its media trained on him. The exhibition is divided into seven sections: disguise, death and humanity, politics, advertising, cover stories, celebrity, and symbolism. Organized thematically, the sections highlight Warhol's engagement with what he perceived as the socially relevant in art and life. An artist famous for having promoted himself as apathetic, vacuous, and superficial, Warhol will be seen as having been socially active and politically concerned.

In addition to 86 paintings, prints, photographs, and one film, the exhibition features archival material borrowed from the Andy Warhol Museum.This includes selections from the artist's collection of photographs, newspaper articles, and promotional materials :hat figured prominently in the production of his art. One of Warhol's "Time Capsules," compiled for posterity, will also be on view to provide a glimpse into a rarely examined aspect of his infatuation with the stuff of popular culture.

"Andy Warhol: Social Observer" gathers together extraordinary examples of the artist's journalistic reportage, including selections from his series devoted to "Electric Chairs," "Car Crashes," "Most Wanted Men," and "Race Riots." The exhibition also goes beyond the early years associated with this Disaster imagery to delve deeper into the complexity and range of Warhol's production by featuring works that suggest new ways to understand this artist who is best known as an originator of Pop art. Whereas many Warhol exhibitions have focused primarily on the artist's early output, "Andy Warhol: Social Observer" takes stock of the full expanse of his life's work. By examining both the medium and the message, it offers fresh insights and makes significant advances in the scholarship of this preeminent post-war American artist.

"Andy Warhol: Social Observer" will run concurrently with "Robert Gwathmey: Master Painter," a retrospective of the work of the PAFA graduate and mid-century social realist renowned for his role as an observer of Southern rural life. As a complementary pair, the exhibitions will examine the documentary currents of social realism, which had its origins in the 1930s, and explore their connections to the photographic and mass-media based art-making techniques employed by Warhol.

"Andy Warhol: Social Observer" is organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The exhibition is supported by a grant from the Mellon Financial Corporation Foundation, with additional funding from the Women's Committee of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation.

A variety of adult and family educational programming-an artists' panel, film series, lectures, and gallery talks-will accompany the exhibition's presentation, as well as a fully illustrated catalogue authored by Assistant Curator Jonathan P. Binstock, the exhibition's organizer, with essay contributions by both Maurice Berger, distinguished art historian and Senior Fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics of the New School for Social Research in New York City, and Trevor Fairbrother, Deputy Director and John and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern Art at the Seattle Art Museum.

Read more about the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Resource Library Magazine.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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rev. 1/6/11

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