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Warhol by the Book at the Morgan Library in NYC

February 8, 2016 - by Alison Durkee
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From the vibrant hues of his Marilyn Monroe prints to his Campbell’s Soup cans, Andy Warhol’s iconic, larger-than-life works often reflect our culture more than the artist himself. A more understated view of the famed Pop Artist, however, is currently on display at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York with Warhol by the Book, a retrospective of Andy Warhol’s career as a book artist that provides a more personal look at this cultural icon.

warhol by the book

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Andy Warhol's Index (Book), New York: Random House; A Black Star book, 1967. The Morgan Library & Museum; Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund. Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2015. © 2016 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The exhibition, which originated at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, includes more than 130 objects that span from Warhol’s college illustrations to the diaries published after his death. Sections are dedicated to such eras of Warhol’s career as his early commercial work (illustrating dust jackets), the books he self-published in the 1950s, and, of course, the Pop era, which saw Warhol’s most famous publication, Andy Warhol’s Index (Book).

Warhol’s career was partially defined by its variety, spanning genres from television to photography, and this variety comes through even within the narrow focus of this retrospective. Some objects in the exhibition are instantly recognizable. Warhol’s classic shoe illustrations are included, along with a 30-foot accordion-fold book constructed from cut-up pieces of his Marilyn Monroe screen prints (accompanied by two Marilyn prints still intact). But many of the exhibition’s highlights are its hidden gems, from the candied pink illustrations for Warhol’s 1961 Horoscopes for the Cocktail Hour to his early book illustrations from the late 1940s and early '50s.

warhol by the book

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), In the Bottom of My Garden, ca. 1956. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Contribution the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © 2016 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Warhol’s work here is, as ever, also filled with direct outside influences. His early dust jacket illustrations were often traced using photos from the New York Public Library, friends were responsible for coloring his 1950’s illustrations with their distinctive bright hues, and a pop-up card is included in the exhibition that Warhol, having been sent it by his Index coeditor for inspiration, instead just directly inserted into his book. Yet each work is still resolutely Warhol’s creation, and, aided by more personal artifacts like rejection letters from publishers and college textbooks with doodles packed in the margins, the exhibition is an insightful exploration of the legendary artist.

For visitors wishing to learn even more, the exhibition will be accompanied by a slate of events and lectures about Warhol and his work. The documentary Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol will screen at the library on February 12, lectures will cover Warhol’s transition from a career in commercial art to fine art (March 29) and Andy Warhol’s Alphabet Books (March 17), and gallery talks will be held February 19 and April 29.

Warhol by the Book is on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through May 15. For more information, visit themorgan.org.

warhol by the book

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Horoscopes for the Cocktail Hour, ca. 1961, Ink, stamped ink, Dr. Martin's aniline dye, and collage on sketchbook paper. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © 2016 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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