Andy Warhol once said, “I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty.” The Warhol photographs currently on display in Gonzaga’s Jundt Museum perfectly reflect this sentiment.
From quiet streets in China, sharp with the contrast of sun and shadow, to the famous laughing face of 1976 Olympic skater Dorothy Hamill, the simple beauty encapsulated in his snapshots is frozen in time, handed down decades later with a poignant insight into an otherwise hidden past.
According to Dr. Paul Manoguerra, director of Jundt since 2013, “It was time to showcase Andy’s pieces.” Manoguerra speaks of the artist familiarly, as if they were good friends.
The 156 photographs, part of Jundt’s permanent collection since a donation in 2008 by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, have remained unseen in dark, cool storage, awaiting their exhibition slot. Manoguerra said he wanted to continue to learn about the permanent collection and decided that he wanted to showcase the Warhol pieces, choosing from the selection based on which prints and photographs personally interested him.
True to his art-loving background, Manoguerra also mentioned that it is better for the care of the pieces to mat and display them.
The collection of Warhol’s photographs is unique because the “everydayness” of the pieces exposes an angle of Warhol that many art lovers do not usually get to see. In addition to the five popular vibrant prints characteristic of the late artist, Jundt is currently sharing the quiet side of Warhol’s life of fame.
Portrait series of Sean Lennon (John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s only child), Tom Seaver, Hamill, Caroline Louise Marguerite Grimaldi (daughter of Grace Kelly and Rainier III, Prince of Monaco), models are among the pieces that line the walls. Against the white paint of Jundt’s Galleries room, the ghostly 1970s Polaroid beauty of these subjects haunts the viewer. While some photo subjects are well known, like Lennon, other identities were lost in the tumult of time. Those models’ eyes peer into Warhol’s lens, laughing, smiling, staring, squinting, but no longer identifiable.
“This was all the rage in the ’70s,” Manoguerra said as he gestured to Hamill’s distinct bowl-cut hair. “Everyone wanted Dorothy Hamill’s hair style.”
Manoguerra also pointed out his favorite black-and-white snapshot of a Chinese cobblestoned street.
“The diffusion of sunlight is strongly coming in through the right corner,” Manoguerra said. “It’s one [photo] that lends itself to black and white.”
Indeed, the sharply delineated cobblestones and the dark walking figures set against the blaring sunlight is a monochrome study in softness and sharpness, a quiet moment frozen in time by the click of Warhol’s camera.
These black-and-white pictures are all photos from Warhol’s private life. A chair lit by sunlight here, an unsettling wax figure portrait there.
“I like [Warhol’s] art,” Manoguerra said. “It’s straightforward. Its subject matter, whether it’s people- everyday people or famous people, or everyday scenes, street scenes- his subject matter is accessible. It’s not abstract, where it’s about subject and form and void of narrative. The narrative is right there. His color choices, his prints in particular, they just pop. Which lends itself to the name ‘Pop Art.’ ”
When questioned about what the random black-and-white photos meant to Warhol, Manoguerra shook his head and smiled.
“[Warhol} was mysterious,” Manoguerra said. “Intentionally coy, he’s playing a game. He’s leaving [the meaning] intentionally open-ended.”
In addition to Warhol’s artwork on display, the Jundt Galleries are also showing “Views of Rome,” etchings from mid-1700 artists depicting Rome by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and his contemporaries. These etchings are created by first being incised on a copper plate, then dunked in acid to set the scratches, then soaked in ink and pressed onto paper. From there, color can be added by hand.
Because both the “Views of Rome” and the Warhol pieces show the world in past tense, and because Norman and Esther Bolker, donors of the “Views of Rome” pieces died in the past six months, Manoguerra decided that it would be appropriate to honor the donors by displaying their donation.
Piranesi was part of in international community in Rome in the 1700s at the beginning of the neoclassical era. The renewed interest in everything Roman and Greek compelled him and his contemporaries to create these intricate etchings of the historical city. The pieces were intended to be “Grand Tour” souvenirs; trinkets “proper” Belgian or English gentlemen would purchase on their customary studies abroad. Upon their return home, they would display the etchings in their parlor.
The Warhol and Piranesi exhibit will remain open free to the public until Aug. 9.