The exhibition, organized by Museo de Arte del Banco de la República
in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, offers a complete panorama of the work of this fertile artist and it is the largest exhibition ever organized in a Latin American museum. The list of works of art comprises 26 paintings, 57 silk screens, 39 photographs and 2 installations (Silver Clouds and Cow wallpaper). Fourteen of his films will also be screened at the Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño.
Andy Warhol, Mr. America explores all aspects and periods from this multi-facetic production from this artist, with a particular emphasis in the period between 1961 and 1968.
It was during the 1960s that Warhol began to make paintings of iconic American products such as Campbell's Soup Cans from the Campbell Soup Company and Coca-Cola bottles, as well as paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Troy Donahue, and Elizabeth Taylor. He founded "The Factory," his studio during these years, and gathered around himself a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. He began producing prints using the silkscreen method. His work became popular and controversial.
Among the imagery tackled by Warhol were dollar bills, celebrities and brand name products. He also used as imagery for his paintings newspaper headlines of photographs of mushroom clouds, electric chairs, and police dogs attacking civil rights protesters. Warhol also used Coca Cola bottles as subject matter for paintings.
New York's Museum of Modern Art hosted a Symposium on pop art in December 1962 during which artists like Warhol were attacked for "capitulating" to consumerism. Critics were scandalized by Warhol's open embrace of market culture. This symposium set the tone for Warhol's reception. Throughout the decade it became more and more clear that there had been a profound change in the culture of the art world, and that Warhol was at the center of that shift.
A pivotal event was the 1964 exhibit The American Supermarket, a show held in Paul Bianchini's Upper East Side gallery. The show was presented as a typical U.S. small supermarket environment, except that everything in it from the produce, canned goods, meat, posters on the wall, etc. were created by six prominent pop artists of the time including the controversial (and like-minded) Billy Apple, Mary Inman, and Robert Watts. Warhol's painting of a can of Campbell's soup cost $1,500 while each autographed can sold for $6. The exhibit was one of the first mass events that directly confronted the general public with both pop art and the perennial question of what is art.
As an advertisement illustrator in the 1950s, Warhol used assistants to increase his productivity. Collaboration would remain a defining (and controversial) aspect of his working methods throughout his career; in the 1960s, however, this was particularly true. One of the most important collaborators during this period was Gerard Malanga. Malanga assisted the artist with producing silkscreens, films, sculpture, and other works at "The Factory", Warhol's aluminum foil-and-silver-paint-lined studio on 47th Street (later moved to Broadway). Other members of Warhol's Factory crowd included Freddie Herko, Ondine, Ronald Tavel, Mary Woronov, Billy Name, and Brigid Berlin (from whom he apparently got the idea to tape record his phone conversations).
During the 60s, Warhol also groomed a retinue of bohemian eccentrics upon whom he bestowed the designation "Superstars", including Edie Sedgwick, Viva, and Ultra Violet. These people all participated in the Factory films, and some, like Berlin, remained friends with Warhol until his death. Important figures in the New York underground art/cinema world, such as writer John Giorno and film-maker Jack Smith, also appear in Warhol films of the 1960s, revealing Warhol's connections to a diverse range of artistic scenes during this period.