Andy Warhol: life, death, fame and misfortune

“Dear God, please take care of your servant, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.” This haunting inscription was on the back of a picture handed out at St. Matthews Cathedral the day of JFK’s funeral. It was also included in the 11th frame of Andy Warhol’s “Flash” collection that is currently showcased in the McNay’s Andy Warhol exhibit.

Each frame in this particular collection is an enlarged picture of dated text describing the moments leading up to JFK’s assassination and the series of unforgettable events that directly followed. Above the framed text are 11 screen prints on paper of images that depict JFK and his family. Reading and looking in silence, visitors are moved by the profound effect of the captured words and images as though they were in Dallas the day JFK was killed.

The “Flash” is one of many collection that is featured in this interesting maze of Warhol. But who was Andy Warhol? In a quote printed in bright yellow writing on a wall of the exhibit, Warhol says, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

Unapologetically, Warhol captured life & death, fame & misfortune in his breakthrough artwork. His combination of color and disaster is aesthetically pleasing, but dark and humorless at the same time.

One such example is a photo of a car crash. The car is flipped over a bloody victim trapped inside. Two others are wounded and sitting beside the car staring blankly at the photographer. Such “pieces of art” are indicative of Warhol’s obsession with darkness. They have the potential to make a viewer obsessive, too. Something about the way the two living people are staring while their friend lies dead feet away is chilling, and a museum visitor is left to wonder, “why?”

The Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune exhibit will be at the McNay until May 20, 2012. The museum has acquired over 150 pieces of his artwork including screen prints, paintings, charcoal drawings, screen-printing ink on linen, graphite on paper, photographs and videos.

Littered throughout the exhibit are quotes from Andy Warhol that help define his vision and the art he created. Warhol believed, “Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.”

Warhol was fascinated with celebrities. “Marilyn” is a collection of four screen prints on paper from a collection of 10 that depicts the iconic star smiling coyly. The prints were created in 1967; Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. Warhol was fascinated with celebrities… and their demise.

Born Andrew Warhola, Jr., the incomparable artist prematurely met his own misfortune on February 22, 1987 from a post-operative cardiac arrhythmia. His legacy and artwork live on, and a vast collection of that legacy is available for viewing by the public at the McNay Art Museum.

Per Warhol, “It’s not what you are that counts; it’s what they think you are.”