The most skillfully produced front pages capture us with a mix of urgent headlines and eloquent, magnetic photographs. Andy Warhol understood this, for his own news-based works -- like so much of his artistic oeuvre -- are uniformly eye-popping.
In fact, news was not just an occasional inspiration, but a full-fledged preoccupation for the 20th-century artist, says Molly Donovan, curator of the National Gallery of Art's upcoming exhibition, Warhol: Headlines. "Warhol was obsessed with the news and he aspired to be in the news," Donovan says. The most convincing evidence of Warhol's news "obsession" is likely to be found in his work itself, particularly those pieces of it that deal with, and are directly derived from, journalism.
In advance of the exhibition's opening, Salon asked Donovan to answer a few questions about Warhol's news-related work; read her answers below, and click through the following slide show for a tour of some of the exhibition's highlights -- each of which is explained and assessed for you in the curator's own words.
The National Gallery calls this "the first exhibition to fully examine the works that Andy Warhol created on the theme of news headlines." How have Warhol's headline-related works been dealt with in the past?
The headline-themed works have been folded into other themes, as in the Menil Collection’s "Death and Disasters" show in 1988. The only show to treat the headlines alone comprised archival materials and was held in the Archive of the Andy Warhol Museum in 2001.
How many of these works are being exhibited here for the first time?
Forty percent of the works of art and 23 percent of the ephemera have never been on public view before now. Just when we thought we knew all of Warhol’s work, new ones are still being uncovered!
How was the timing for this exhibition decided? Many in the media feel that journalism is facing serious existential questions as it redefines itself for the Internet age; is there a message here about the role of journalism in our artistic and everyday lives?
The realities of the media age add a layer of meaning to this show; however, the original inspiration was the National Gallery’s painting "A Boy for Meg " [Slide 1]. The relevance speaks to the richness of Warhol’s subjects and suggests we are still living in the Warhol moment. What is apparent in the show is the extent to which Warhol was aware of the technological shifts in the media during his own age. The exhibition begins with Warhol making (two-dimensional) drawings and painting based on the newspaper, and ends with his televised news production on cable. As the media shifts yet again -- this time to the Internet -- we are aware that the medium is still part of the message.
"Warhol: Headlines" will be open at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 25, 2011, to Jan. 2, 2012.