Pop Art legend Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was a prolific artist and photographer. When he wasn’t creating iconic images of American culture or philosophizing on “fifteen minutes of fame,” he was snapping countless images of those drawn near to his wildly diverse social circle. Now, the Lawton Gallery at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has a piece of that history.
The Lawton Gallery recently took possession of a gift of 161 original Warhol photographs from the late artist’s foundation. UW-Green Bay joins Beloit College and UW-Madison as the only Wisconsin institutions to receive these unprecedented gifts.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts marked the foundation’s 20th anniversary by distributing more than 25,000 original Warhol photographs, valued in excess of $28 million, to several hundred college and university art museums. Called the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program, it seeks to provide greater access to Warhol’s artwork and process, and to enable a wide range of people from communities across the country to view and study an important yet relatively unknown body of Warhol’s work.
The photos received by UW-Green Bay depict socialites and people on the street, celebrities and hangers-on. Among the notable subjects are basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, singer Dolly Parton, actor Mel Gibson, and Warhol contemporaries including New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and realist painter Jamie Wyeth.
The images are both black-and-white prints and color Polaroids. Jenny Moore, curator of the Photographic Legacy Program, says Warhol had a knack for drawing out the idiosyncrasies of his subjects, and the two-camera process played a part.
“Often, he would shoot a person or event with both cameras, cropping one in Polaroid color as a ‘photograph’ and snapping the other in black and white as a ‘picture,’” Moore says. “By presenting both kinds of images side by side, viewers are able to move back and forth between moments of Warhol’s art, work and life – inseparable parts of a fascinating whole.”
Dr. Stephen Perkins, academic curator of art, says a future Lawton exhibition is likely, but time and resources will be required to properly catalog and mount the images for public exhibit. For more information on the Warhol collection, contact Perkins at (920) 465-2916.