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The American Dream, Warhol-Style, on View at the Hood This Summer
Andy Warhol, Brick Town Houses, June 1982, gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 in. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation; 2008.3.145

HANOVER, NH.- Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, presents the intimate summer exhibition Follow the Money: Andy Warhol’s American Dream, a special opportunity to engage with the work of this transformative artist and pop personality. On view from July 17 through September 19, Follow the Money is an animated combination of paintings, photographs, and prints of coins and dollar signs as well as images of people both famous and unknown. A free illustrated brochure accompanies the exhibition, and art historian Trevor Fairbrother, the guest curator, will deliver a lunchtime gallery talk on Tuesday, July 27, at 12:30 PM in the Hood’s Harrington Gallery. Small in scale and focused in content, Follow the Money permits a uniquely in-depth perusal of Warhol’s seemingly limitless inventiveness.

Andrew Warhola grew up working class and Byzantine Catholic, the youngest son of immigrants who settled in Pittsburgh. In 1949, after graduating from the Carnegie Institute of Technology with a degree in pictorial design, he left home for New York City. He promptly changed his name to Andy Warhol and blossomed as a commercial artist. Illustrations in Harper’s Bazaar, newspaper ads for I. Miller shoes, album covers for CBS Records, and window displays at Bonwit Teller brought him financial success.

Warhol’s life ultimately unfolded as a rags-to-riches saga. Born and raised in slums, he owned a townhouse on the Upper East Side when he died. Throughout his career he worked every bit as hard as his industrious Slavic parents. Belief in the American Dream, a depression-era expression of hope in a “better, richer, and happier life,” crested in him during his early years. Sugary sentiment had its place in Warhol’s repertoire; however, his core remained hard-bitten. He was not blind to the violence and brutality that permeate many American lives, and already in 1963 he made photo-based silkscreen paintings of car crashes, race riots in Alabama, and the electric chair at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

So, while the American Dream appealed to Warhol, he, like a wise peasant, settled for a bittersweet one: you have to work, you deserve some fun, and you shouldn’t get suckered. In his 1975 book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, he put his twisted gloss on the old-school work ethic: “During the hippie era people put down the idea of business—they’d say, ‘Money is bad,’ and ‘Working is bad,’ but [I believe] making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Highlights of this exhibition exemplify Warhol’s artistic responses to the knotty relationships between power, money, celebrity, and American culture. Some speak for themselves: a dollar sign, a coin, and a rehabbed townhouse with a “For Sale” sign. A print of the Indian head nickel (minted from 1913 to 1938) held potent childhood associations, both nostalgic and commercial, for the artist, in addition to being a mesmerizing example of graphic design.

Warhol took the Polaroid photo of Carolina Herrara during the session that marked the beginning of a potential portrait commission. Herrara, the fashion designer and entrepreneur who dressed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the 1980s, impressed him with her stylish hauteur, and he showed her to be a subject worthy of Manet or Picasso. In 1979 the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, exhibited a decade of Warhol’s portraits derived from Polaroid snapshots; the occasion drummed up new clients for him but drew only lukewarm critical responses. Still, it was already true that here was no ordinary portraitist but instead the media icon who, a decade before in 1968, had unleashed the prescient phrase, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.”

Hood Museum of Art | "Follow the Money" | Andy Warhol |

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