Andy Warhol Exhibit

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An Andy Warhol exhibit is on display at the Phoenix Art Museum until June 21st. We’ll take you on a video tour of the exhibit.

TED SIMONS: Andy Warhol notably predicted that in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Warhol's own fame has lasted a lot longer. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Kyle Mounce take us to the Phoenix Art Museum for an exhibition of Warhol's portraits.

SHANA FISCHER: Andy Warhol is the very definition of art imitating life. His portraits were of celebrities who often became his friends, and his time in the New York club scene is legendary. But that was just a small part of who Warhol really was, according to curator Jerry Smith.

JERRY SMITH: Andy Warhol is an individual. He grew up from an immigrant family living in Pittsburgh - in blue-collar, working-class Pittsburgh. He had a nervous disorder that kept him out of school quite often. And he spent that time, when he was home alone, reading movie magazines and making clippings and sketchbooks of movie stars. And he had this early obsession with film.

SHANA FISCHER: He also loved to sketch, and his mother encouraged him.

JERRY SMITH: So when he graduated college, he went to New York, and in the 1950s he was one of the most popular, sought-after commercial illustrators, and was making upwards of $150,000 a year…in the 1950s!

SHANA FISCHER: During that time, he connected with many celebrities. They would pose for him and he would turn that photo into a work of art. He utilized a silk-screening technique that we now appreciate as something distinctly his.

JERRY SMITH: His main emphasis was using the silk-screen process of taking a photograph just like you find in a newspaper and having it made into a silk-screen and then running ink through the screen to create the image. And that's why you see variations in images, because he used these silk-screens that would get clogged with the ink, or the registration of the colors wouldn't be exact, and he encouraged that.

SHANA FISCHER: Nearly 200 portraits are on display in this exhibition, from Sylvester Stallone to prima ballerina Heather Watts. Along with portraits, there are Warhol's early works: pencil sketches and ink drawings.

JERRY SMITH: Putting together this exhibition was a lot of fun because of the bright colors in the work. We went through a palette of different things and selected blues and pinks and purples and yellows that are very vibrant and indicate colors you find in the work, and yet they have a real '80s feel to them. And also, with the color, we wanted to kind of play with the ideas that you find in the art, which is the registration of colors don't always line up. So we weren't necessarily completely concerned with if a painting would be perfectly on one color or another.

SHANA FISCHER: Warhol was also an avant-garde filmmaker. In a room is a look at his movies and screen tests. There's also an area where you can do your own screen test. An old-fashioned Bolex film camera sits on a tripod and records you, and the screen test is emailed to you. There are other areas where you become part of the exhibit, like the silver clouds room.

JERRY SMITH: Warhol wanted this idea of sculpture that floated. And initially he was thinking light bulb but that took too much effort to try to create a design so he ended up making silver clouds, which are these silver Mylar balloons that float, and he would have those floating about in his silver factory, his studio space that was filled with and lined with aluminum foil and silver paint and these balloons would be floating about, and the Velvet Underground, the band that he produced, would be playing and these balloons going and films playing across everything, and it was a full-on experience.

SHANA FISCHER: There's also the selfie wall with wallpaper featuring images of Warhol. You can take a photo here and post on social media.

JERRY SMITH: What would Andy Warhol do with social media? I really believe that if Andy Warhol were alive today, we probably wouldn't even be calling them selfies; we would be calling them "Andys" because he would have had them out there. We would have Warhol-o-grams, not Instagram. I think he would have eaten that up.

SHANA FISCHER: Smith says, contrary to what many people believe, Warhol wasn't overly into the social scene. He worked very long hours, and it's that emphasis on the work that Smith believes is the reason Warhol's fame has lasted longer than 15 minutes.

JERRY SMITH: There's often a divide between the artist and the work in our own time, but I think we see these works and we get it. We get it - they're bright, they're colorful, they're fun, and people enjoy them. And I think that's one of the reasons Andy Warhol is still so famous today.

TED SIMONS: The Warhol portraits are on display until June 21st.

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TED SIMONS: Friday on Arizona Horizon, it's the Journalists' Roundtable. We'll discuss Ann Kirkpatrick's decision to run for John McCain's U.S. Senate seat. And we'll look at how that decision and resulting open congressional seat impacts state politics. Those stories Friday, on the Journalists' Roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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