Courtesy of San Antonio Museum of Art
What do O.J. Simpson, Dorothy Hamill and Pelé have in common? Their portraits can be seen comingling as part of Andy Warhol’s series, “The Athletes.”
Warhol’s paintings have dominated the Pop Art genre. This exhibit accentuates his skills and reflects his classic personal style. Currently on display at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), this one-wall exhibit shouts hard work, dedication and raw talent.
In addition to Simpson, Hamill and Pelé, Jack Nicklaus, Rod Gilbert, Muhammad Ali, Tom Seaver, Willie Shoemaker, Chris Evert and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are clumped together in this unique series. The technique used for these paintings involved printing the photos onto individual canvases and, from there, Warhol worked his magic with the paintbrush.
Richard Weisman, art collector and personal friend of Warhol’s, commissioned the ten paintings back in 1977. “I felt putting the series together was natural, in that two of the most popular leisure activities at the time were sports and art,” Weisman noted. “I thought that having Andy do the series would inspire people who loved sports to come into galleries, maybe for the first time, and people who liked art would take their first look at a sports superstar.”
When Weisman first introduced the idea to Warhol, the painter was not an active member of the sports world, so Weisman compiled the list of athletes he felt should be included in the series.
Warhol’s legacy continues to live on through his paintings. He is known commonly for his work portraying celebrities – pop culture icons from his time. The idea to paint popular talented athletes stemmed from Weisman recognizing that these sports stars were being viewed favorably by the public. They were becoming celebrities.
Looking at each athlete’s painting,the signature Warhol theme is present, but he still managed to make all ten stand out in different ways. The basic use of painting over screen-printed canvases makes the subjects appear three-dimensional and two-dimensional all at the same time. The varying eye contact and facial expressions among the sports stars create an organized yet chaotic crowd.
Considering he did not know much about the people he would be portraying, Warhol really used his medium to preserve these ground-breaking athletes. This has almost always been the case with Warhol’s works. His creative mind had a knack for taking these iconic people and symbols and morphing them into something that would make the subject live on forever.
The rise to fame was a slow and steady race for Warhol. He strategically made his connections little by little, which led him to household-name status internationally. Once fame and fortune were in his grasp, Warhol began doing a lot of work in New York, which became his home.
When we think Warhol, Campbell’s Soup labels and Marilyn Monroe printed on canvases typically come to mind. While this may have been his most influential work, Warhol was also a skilled sculptor and videographer. After surviving a gun-shot wound, he began to document every single detail of his life via
pen and paper as well as with tape recorders. Some highlights from the archives, known as The Warhol Diaries, were released to the public after his death in 1987.
The Athletes will remain at SAMA until April 27. Admission is free on Tuesdays from 4-9 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. On all other days, admission is $5 for students with an ID. On March 21, SAMA curator David Rubin will host “A Conversation with Richard Weisman” beginning at 6:30 p.m. The interview will give museum-goers a glimpse at the inspiration behind “The Athletes.” For more information, visit samuseum.org.