Andy Warhol was an American artist, film director, producer and the leading figure in the visual art movement known as Pop Art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, advertising and celebrity culture of the 1960s and 1970s and span a variety of media, including painting, silkscreen, photography, film and sculpture. Warhol (1928-1987) inspired a host of contemporaries; among the most famous of them were Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) and Keith Haring (1958-1990). Together, these artists have inspired generations of emerging artists to push the boundaries of art.
On view September 10, 2022-January 2, 2023, the exhibition Pop to Now: Warhol and His Legacy, developed in partnership with Aktion Art, features select works by Warhol, Basquiat and Haring and follows their influence on pop culture, music, fashion and art through a mix of works on canvas, as well as unique objects and memorabilia from the heady years of the Pop Art movement to today’s cultural landscape of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), digital and data-driven art.
The exhibition begins with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s iconic Warhol portraits of the Bechtler family, painted in 1973. Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2023, these family portraits in the museum’s collection are complemented in the exhibition by nine other portraits by the founding father of Pop Art, many of them on loan from the personal collection of Warhol’s famous muse, Jane Holzer, and in partnership with Kasmin Gallery. Holzer, a film producer, actress and model, was introduced to Warhol by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland in 1964. She appeared in some of Warhol’s earliest films and has since become a well-known art collector and real-estate entrepreneur. Her world-renowned collection includes some of Warhol’s most important works, as well as works by Basquiat, Haring and an array of contemporary and blue-chip artists. In addition, a collection of memorabilia, including record album covers, commission magazine works, advertisements and limited design fashion items from the period provides these works with a cultural context.
Fast forward to now, and the continued influence of these legendary artists is highlighted through the ground-breaking work of Los Angeles-based contemporary artist ThankYouX, New York-based contemporary artist Kristin McIver and geometric contemporary American artist HEES.
“While we are a museum founded on the celebration of the European modernist moment through our core collection, we are emerging as an institution that seeks to be accessible and of its moment, striving to explore the global legacies of modernism through living contemporary artists,” said Todd D. Smith, executive director. “The inclusion of contemporary artists who are working with NFTs gives us an opportunity to introduce Charlotte and our visitors to evolving technology and emerging artists inspired by modern art.”
Ryan Wilson, known as ThankYouX, is a pioneer of the digital art age and creator of “phigital” (physical in combination with digital) art. He first gained notoriety on the streets of Los Angeles in 2009 for his large stenciled iconic graffitied tributes to Andy Warhol, signing “Thank You X” underneath in a gesture of anonymous gratitude for Warhol’s aesthetic of rebellious integrity. More recently, he has trailblazed the explosive landscape of NFTs, creating both paintings that have NFTs embedded into their canvases, as well as immersive NFTs set to music composed by music pioneer Hans Zimmer. In addition to his NFT work on view, ThankYouX will premiere a unique mural created within the exhibition, designed as a gesture toward his artistic roots, inspired by Warhol.
Kristin McIver’s multi-disciplinary conceptual practice includes sculpture, painting, sound and installation. Utilizing devices such as language, light, mixed media and new media, the works explore themes of identity and celebrity within the context of participatory and consumer culture. Her works featured in the exhibition are portraits composed of abstracted data interpretations of Warhol’s famous works.
Rounding out the exhibition, Kevin HEES, a contemporary of Basquiat, incorporates acrylic, oil, and paint-stick on canvas and NFTs to portray universal concepts relating to geometry, music, science and numerology. HEES’ work is known for his use of colorful circles, geometric shapes and his signature circle and three lines of marks that represent the number seven, symbolic of the ingredients for life and art. His deconstructed styles, raw canvas, use of pastels, literature, poetry, symbolism and spirituality draw upon the immediacy of Basquiat’s approach to artmaking and his embrace of music and pop culture.
Pop to Now: Warhol and His Legacy, developed in partnership with Aktion Art, is supported by the Infusion Fund, the City of Charlotte, Foundation for the Carolinas and Bank of America. Additional support provided by the North Carolina Arts Council and the Arts and Science Council.