In collaboration with the Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur e.V. Bonn
(Foundation for Art and Culture, Bonn), the Villa Schöningen
presents in its spring exhibition a selection of early works by Andy Warhol. On view from May 3 to July 24, 2011, are drawings, collages and serigraphs from both the Marx Collection and from private collectors. The curators Aeneas and Heiner Bastian have brought together works dating largely from the 1950s, which are augmented by such famous motifs as "Campbells Soup Cans" or the "Cows".
After having completed his studies at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the young Warhol spent the early 1950s in various New York studios where he initially forged a career as a commercial artist. By the middle of the decade he had become one of the most successful commercial illustrators in Manhattan, working for magazines such as Glamour, Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, designing covers for albums and books and even drawing sketches for the Sunday supplements of the New York Times. True to his claim: "I can draw anything", he fashioned pictures of faces, feet, putti, cats, (his mother, with whom he lived together for many years, kept up to 25 cats, all named Sam), plants, birds and insects. Above all, however, Warhol created pictures of shoes, perhaps more accurately described as 'shoe portraits', which the artist imbued with specific personalities and traits - a motif he returned to almost obsessively. Another favourite motif were his portraits of handsome young men whom Warhol captured with just a few strokes in restful poses, striking a delicate balance between proximity and distance. "I still care about people, says Andy Warhol, "but it would be so much easier not to care. I dont want to get too close; I dont like to touch things, thats why my work is so distant from myself.
Many of his drawings and prints, which appeared at regular intervals in book form, are "subtly provocative in their simplicity and innocence", according to the curator Heiner Bastian. Warhol drew with a ball-point pen or ink and applied gold leaf to the sheets, many of which were printed and coloured in, not only by Warhol himself, but by friends. In addition he also experimented with a transfer lithographic technique in which he initially sketched out the image in pencil on water-resistant paper and then retraced it using ink which was not absorbed by the paper. Warhol then placed water-colour paper onto this original, thus creating a second "printed original", which can be reproduced and changed as often as required by reworking the original. This technique paved the way for his later works. "Andy Warhol may have welcomed the discovery of the "printed" original and its possible multiple states and applications as a synonym of emotional distance; doubtless an ideal prerequisite for an artist who was about to revolutionise the production of the painting and, following a long working process, ultimately lend authenticity as a method to this most impersonal virtuoso technique." (H. Bastian).
Criticised by his some of his contemporaries for his overt commercialism, Warhol's early works prefigure much of what came to distinguish his later output: the experimentation with mechanical techniques, the use of photographic images, serial reproduction, and "the detached psychological state of the artist who sought to eradicate all traces of his own 'hand'" His early works were ahead of their time and constitute a "form of individual denial. Everything in these works is a rejection of the language of the time, of the gestural modes of abstract Expressionism." (H. Bastian)
The exhibition "Andy Warhol Early Works" is the second joint project launched by the Villa Schöningen in collaboration with the Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur e.V. Bonn. The initiators are Mathias Döpfner (co-owner of the Villa Schöningen, Potsdam) and Walter Smerling (chairman of the Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur e.V., Bonn).