There is an honesty in drawing. The vulnerability of the artist’s true hand, exposed by a lack of surface and ornament, and viewable at long-last. The drawings of a master educate the viewer to where genius lies, no longer hidden by subtle color undulations and effusive brushstrokes. But what of drawings by a master who decisively chose to negate the painterly touch? Exploited mechanical means to achieve a serialization in painting that destroyed the idea of the unique object? An artist who made a career of eradicating “the hand” in his art? The honesty in Andy Warhol’s drawings, despite what his later paintings suggest, is that his greatest strength as an artist was his hand.
Hirschl & Adler Modern is proud to present Bang! Andy Warhol, Early Pop Drawings 1952 – 1962, with its accompanying catalogue of 24 full-color illustrations and an essay by Dave Hickey. Nearly 30 works, all assembled from private collections for this exhibition, celebrate Warhol as a draftsman through his use of graphite, ink, dye, gouache and collage. Foreshadowing his mastery of form and content, these early works are imbued with Warhol’s later concerns as a Pop-Artist, both conceptually and formally. This survey shows that they were a part of his practice well before the soup cans made their debut in 1962.
Notice that a simple rendering of a television camera from 1952 pre-dates his declarative statement: “I am a camera”. Or how his iconic “blotted-line” technique is, in essence, a mono-print; hand-drawn precursors to the serialization that silk-screening allows. The portrait, the application of flat color, the grid and other hallmarks of Andy Warhol’s iconic style are presented here in the artist’s own hand. His consummate skill as a draftsman, and the work made between 1952 and 1962, underpin the artistic schism his later work would create when he consciously chose to remove himself from his process.
Often overshadowed by the magnitude and resonance of his paintings and films, the works in this survey display the same vigor and approach. The drawings hint at subject matter waiting to be explored and materials still being pushed. The years between 1952 and 1962 were pivotal for Warhol as he worked to transition from commercial artist to “painter”, and gain the art-world acceptance that he deeply desired. These works prove that his insecurity was unfounded: he already was an artist. An artist fully in control of his work, harnessing a style, and driving towards something the art-world had never seen before and has never seen since.
Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, to emigrant parents and was raised outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Intelligent and artistically gifted, Warhola studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), where he majored in pictorial design, graduating in 1949. After graduation, Warhol moved to New York City and found success as a commercial illustrator for Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker, among others (and dropped the “a” from his last name). His first solo exhibition was in 1952 at Hugo Gallery, where he exhibited drawings based on the writings of Truman Capote. Warhol exhibited frequently, though with little fanfare, throughout the 1950s. His iconic Campbell’s soup can paintings were first exhibited at Ferus Gallery (Los Angeles) in 1962, cementing his role as a fine artist and a leader of the Pop Art movement. In the decades that followed that exhibition, Andy Warhol became not only one of the major artists of the 20th century, but also a global icon. His work can be found in major museums world-wide, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY; The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Tate Modern, London, The Guggenheim Museum, NY; The J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, among others. Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987, after complications from gallbladder surgery. Following his death, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was established in accordance with the artist’s will. Plans for the Andy Warhol Museum were announced in 1989 and the museum officially opened to the public in Pittsburgh, PA in 1994.
Bang! Andy Warhol, Early Pop Drawings: 1952 - 1962 opens on Thursday, October 23 and runs through Saturday, December 6, 2014. Located in the landmark Crown Building at the world-famous corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, Hirschl & Adler Modern is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm.
This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, with 24 full-color illustrations and an essay by Dave Hickey.