Andy Warhol’s Elephant in the (Basquiat) Room

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Image for post
Elephant. (Photo by the author.)

This past Thursday I was able to make time for the Andy Warhol Museum while in Pittsburgh. Despite the fact that the Pirates were playing at Heinz Stadium, finding a parking spot was easily achieved and I was soon inside, purchasing a ticket in the reception area. Tickets are half price for seniors, which turned out to be an unexpected perk.

As noted in Friday’s post, the layout of the seven-story museum is chronological. You begin at the top, Warhol’s early years, and work your way down. Each level unfolds a more developed aspect of Andy Warhol’s career explorations, from ad agency commercial illustration & design to Pop Art and screen printing, fascination with celebrities, film making and even journalism. And yes, there is a room dedicated to the Andy Warhol Screen Test in which museum-goers can also do their own screen test.

This blog post is devoted to the Elephant here pictured, which stands on a small pedestal in the Warhol-Basquiat room. It’s been famously observed that the two artists did a lot of collaboration, and the results were often dramatic. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall as these two created these imaginative expressions.

When I entered the space I initially scanned, then panned, the elephant. My eyes were drawn to the Warhol-Basquiat collaborations, bold and brassy, dramatic and uninhibited.

After circling the perimeter of the room, engaging each of the pieces (most of them mixed media) I returned to the elephant, and upon noticing the falling man pattern that spilled over the paper mache creature, I seemed to take more pleasure in the piece. It wasn’t just a zebra-striped endangered creature.

As for the subject matter, Warhol had in 1983 produced a series of prints featuring 10 endangered species for Ron and Freyda Feldman. In other words, the sculpture was not unrelated to a theme he’d already shown interest in.

Here are a couple of the Warhol/Basquiat pieces that were hanging in this space.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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