By Veronica Chavez
In 1956, Director of Museum Collections Alfred Barr wrote a letter to Andy Warhol kindly rejecting his gift to the Museum of Modern Art: a drawing entitled Shoe. Barr explained to Warhol that MoMA’s limited gallery and storage space could not accommodate art pieces that would only be displayed infrequently.
Fifty-nine years later and Warhol’s shoe drawings are some of the first eye-catching pieces displayed at MoMA’s exhibition, Andy Warhol: ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ and Other Works, 1953-1967.
It wasn’t until Warhol became famous for his pop art in the ‘60s that MoMA would give him the recognition he desired. Warhol, who died in 1989, remains a household name arguably synonymous with pop art. The current museum exhibit is intended not only to illustrate the artist’s obsession with silk-screening but also for us to remember that there was a time when Warhol used a pen and a brush.
When visitors first enter the gallery, they are met with a series of drawings only avid Warhol aficionados would probably know the artist created. On one wall, colorful and daintily drawn footwear with cutesy sayings like “my shoe is your shoe” are displayed.
On an adjacent wall there are over a dozen ballpoint pen drawings from the 1950s. As MoMA notes alongside one drawing, these pieces were never shown during Warhol’s lifetime and many of them are portraits of unnamed individuals.
The next room is dedicated to Warhol’s famous paintings, Campbell’s Soup Cans. In previous Warhol exhibits at the MoMA, curators displayed the cans in a grid formation, enabling visitors to stand in one spot and see all the different flavors at once.
In this current exhibition, however, the soup cans are presented as they were in their first exhibition in 1962: horizontally on a shelf, all at the same level.
As someone who has previously seen the cans in grid formation, I believe the horizontal arrangement does a better job at showing the magnitude of the 32-part series. The ability to see each can at eye-level also allows viewers to notice the discrepancies between each painting, such as a slight change in the label’s red color.
The last room of the exhibition is dedicated to Warhol’s silk-screen-based works of celebrities including Elvis Presley, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and of course, Marilyn Monroe.
Although Warhol’s emblematic soup cans and colorful Monroe faces can be found all around New York City on T-shirts, mugs, and posters, I think it will be a while before his work–as repetitive or cliche as it may be–will leave any viewer feeling empty.
All photos by Veronica Chavez.
“Andy Warhol: ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ and Other Works, 1953-1967” will be on display at the MoMA in New York City until Oct 18, 2015.