Andy Warhol ‘returns’ to the GRAM with ‘American Icons’ exhibition

Grand Rapids Art Museum - photo from GRAM Instagram account

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The fall exhibitions Andy Warhol’s American Icons and Christian Marclay: Video Quartet open Saturday at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Andy Warhol’s American Icons features a collection of paintings, prints, photographs and films about cultural icons. Some of those include former President Gerald R. Ford, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali, Liz Taylor and Sitting Bull. Also featured are iconic products and symbols, such as Warhol’s Campbell’s soup-can screenprints and an early painting on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art, titled Green Coca-Cola Bottles. 

Museum director/CEO Dana Friis-Hansen tells FOX 17, “One of the reasons to do it, is there’s a whole new generation of museum-goers who didn’t see that show. And really, perhaps have never had a chance to see an original ‘Warhol’ and learn about the range of Warhol’s work.”

American Icons draws on artworks from GRAM’s collection, as well as works from private collections and other public art institutions throughout the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Says Friis-Hansen, “We’ve put together a very focused exhibition with the theme of American icons. America is very different today, and we thought that was another reason; we can start conversations with what Warhol chose as icons: people, places and things.”

Another interesting aspect of the exhibition is a series of photographs and early films harkening back to Warhol’s early experimentation with those mediums. That includes Empire, a film of the Empire State Building from a static position in an adjacent building and 3-minute filmed portraits of Warhol Factory regulars and visitors called Screen Tests. Included are Polaroid photographs, prints, and paintings.

Rapid Exposure: Warhol in Series was one of the GRAM’s first exhibitions in 2008. So, Friis-Hansen says “We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 10th anniversary at 101 Monroe Center than by bringing back key works by this quintessential contemporary artist.”

Christian Marclay: Video Quartet—a seventeen-minute film installation on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art—is opening in conjunction with Andy Warhol’s American Icons. The exhibition consists of four synchronized video projections that form one contiguous image-and-sound work. The installation is comprised of more than 700 individual fragments of film and sound from popular movies which feature people playing musical instruments or singing, as well as other soundtrack elements such as shouts, screams, crashes, and moments of cinematic silence.

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