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Warhol exhibition begins winter-long run at Aspen Art Museum

‘Andy Warhol: Lifetimes’ opened Friday, runs through March

The “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” gallery at the Aspen Art Museum’s “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes.” (Courtesy Aspen Art Museum)
IF YOU GO …

What: ‘Andy Warhol: Lifetimes’

Where: Aspen Art Museum

When: Through March 27

How much: Free

More info: aspenartmuseum.org

The Aspen Art Museum opened the doors to the public Friday for its long-in-the works and much-anticipated museum-wide Andy Warhol retrospective.

Titled, “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes,” it runs through March 27.

What greeted viewers was much more than another exhibition of Warhol’s iconic and frequently shown Pop Art imagery — the Marilyn Monroes and soup cans and flowers (though those are here, too). Instead, this is a deep exploration of Warhol’s life that invites the viewer to see the work through the lens of his biography, showing, for instance, drawings Warhol made with his mother as a boy and early work in advertising as the stepping stones to later breakthroughs. Filling six galleries, this massive and many-pronged show offers new connections between seemingly divergent bodies of work and asks viewers to look at Warhol the man, the artist and the icon.



The exhibition was organized by the Aspen Art Museum along with Tate Modern and Museum Ludwig, Cologne in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario, where the survey made previous stops. For the Aspen show, museum director Nicola Lees tapped artist Monica Majoli to curate. Majoli wanted to break new ground on Warhol through a biographical approach.

“I’ve seen Warhol shows that dealt with a specific part of his identity, but not the whole thing,” Majoli said Thursday evening at an exhibition preview. “And I thought that sort of comprehensive nature of the interests in Warhol’s biography was actually quite interesting. But I also didn’t want to reduce his work to his biography, so that was the challenge.”




The second-floor gallery is filled with the information- and art-packed “After and Before,” offering an illuminating and entertaining mix of art and biography, including everything from Warhol’s Polaroid camera and beloved tape recorder, to works like “Marilyn Diptych” (1962), “Jackie Frieze” (1964) and “Flowers” along with less famous ones like “Crosses” and “Gun” from the early 1980s exploring symbols of religion and violence in American culture, along with film work, a wall of Interview magazine covers and a starry collection of celebrity photos.

The first floor gallery is an eye-opening exploration of Warhol as a queer artist, bringing together some of his earliest work — pen-on-paper drawings of male figures from the mid-1950s — through late masterpieces like “Camouflage” (1986) and the often overlooked “Oxidation Painting” (1978).

It also includes the gallery-within-a-gallery exhibition Warhol’s explicit “sex parts” photos from the 1970s, and dozens of male nude works.

“I felt strongly that we should include very explicit work because it was pivotal,” Majoli said. “During his lifetime he didn’t really share that work, but I felt it was important because it talked about the arc of his relationship to his own sexuality in his work.”

The adjacent gallery includes a projection of “Factory Diary: Andy in Drag,” from October 1981 alongside works from his “Ladies and Gentlemen” paintings featuring drag queens and trans women of color from 1975.

The downstairs galleries include “Capture,” which aims to showcase more downcast aspects of Warhol’s work and includes 26 of his screen tests and a 1986 self-portrait, and “Clouds,” which includes the series “Electric Chair” (1971).

A couple in costume sits for a portrait at the interactive “The Factory” worshop space at the Aspen Art Museum’s “Aspen Warhol: Lifetimes.” (Courtesy Aspen Art Museum)
THE WINTER OF WARHOL

Read more of the Aspen Times coverage of this winter’s exhibitions and Andy Warhol’s history in Aspen, look for more throughout the winter:

* “In Aspen with Andy Warhol,” Dec. 2, Aspen Times Weekly

* “Aspen Art Museum and Powers Art Center open Andy Warhol shows,” Dec. 3, The Aspen Times

Also downstairs is “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” a dark room lit by spinning disco balls and filled with projections of performances from The Factory, Warhol’s legendary New York studio, and blasting music from the Velvet Underground — filled with beanbag chairs, it appears to be an inviting and immersive hang-out spot for to soak up Factory vibes.

The museum also opened its own “The Factory” on Friday, an interactive workshop space on the street level where visitors can take portraits and make art. Free classes will also be hosted there throughout the winter (a kid-friendly version on Wednesdays, and grown-up classes on Saturdays).

“We’re just getting started,” Annie Henninger, the museum’s director of diversity, equity, access and inclusion said of the interactive space. “We’ll have other things going on and we’ll figure out what people are really wanting to do here.”

The run of Warhol-themed events at the museum begins Saturday with a live version of the podcast “Museum Confidential” on site.

The museum also opened a new Warhol-inspired shop, Possession Obsession, in its basement corridor (this is in addition to artist Jonathan Berger’s store, which is still running on the first floor).

Along with the exhibition opening, which came after a six-week closure for installation, the museum debuted its new Rooftop Café on Friday, led by Chef Brian Banister, and its new eight-item daytime menu and après offerings (available 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., respectively). The Slippery Slope bar also reopened on the rooftop.

The exhibition warrants and welcomes repeat visits to plumb the more dense biographical sections and to consider the enormous scope of work here (more than 200 pieces). Lees said she knew the museum had something special happening with “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes” during installation.

“We had all these amazing moments with the crew when they were installing, where they were just starting to see the show,” she said Thursday. “You could see the excitement in their eyes because they just hadn’t thought ‘Warhol’ was going to tell a new story, but it does.”

atravers@aspentimes.com

A display at Possession Obsession, the Warhol-inspired new shop at the Aspen Art Museum. (Courtesy Aspen Art Museum)
The newly renovated welcome area and entrance display at the Aspen Art Museum, showcasing a new magazine published in conjunction with the exhibition opening. (Courtesy Aspen Art Museum)

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