He’s known for his screen prints, soup cans and his fascination with celebrity.
But now, Pittsburghers will get to know another, lesser-known facet of Andy Warhol: the illustrator.
On display through Jan. 10, ‘Warhol by the Book’ at The Andy Warhol Museum is the first U.S. exhibition that concentrates on Warhol’s book-related work. The exhibit, curated by the Warhol’s chief archivist, Matt Wrbican, presents Warhol’s work chronologically, from early student illustrations in the late 1940s through his career in the 1980s.
“The show really covers how active he was in the first decade of his career,” said Jessica Beck, assistant curator of art, and “cultivates a side that people didn’t know much about.”
With more than 400 objects, such as books, drawings and screen prints, relating to more than 80 book titles, including original drawings and unfinished projects, “Warhol By the Book” provides an expansive overview of Warhol’s work on books.
“It’s been our mission with the collection to highlight and showcase other sides to Warhol’s practice,” Beck said.
Warhol embraced a variety of reading material, from crime novels and science fiction to instructional how-tos and catalogs. The museum has multiple versions of the same work on display, Beck said, so visitors are able to see different pages of the same book.
“He’s never writing his own text. He’s still getting other people, other friends to write for him,” Beck said.
Greeting visitors to the second-floor exhibition, a sign reads, “Andy Warhol’s books are an overlooked but important facet of his creativity.” Some of those books are “Here Lies the Heart”; “A Gold Book,” printed on gold paper; “The Runaway Pigeon”; and “Horoscopes for the Cocktail Hour,” which mixes zodiac signs with cocktail recipes.
“It’s really fun material,” Beck said.
Other pieces on display include:
“Vanishing Animals,” “a great project by Warhol,” Beck said. “It’s a portfolio of prints based on the endangered species list to bring the subject to light.”
“The Andy Warhol Diaries,” a publication he produced with editor Pat Hackett. “It’s really great to see little notes that he wrote,” Beck said. “I love the fact that they’re on hotel stationery. He’s clearly traveling around.”
“Wild Raspberries,” a self-published cookbook that’s a tongue-and-cheek play on haute cuisine.
“Velvet the Poodle,” an idea that he started but never finished.
“Andy Warhol’s Party Book,” a how-to and one of Beck’s favorites in the collection. “I just love this idea,” she said. “He’s always staying active in the public eye.”
“A: A Novel,” a 24-hour conversation. The transcript is typed up into the novel.
“Warhol lived most of his life in the pre-digital era, when books and other printed materials were everywhere. Much of his effort was given to creating work for print, especially in books,” Wrbican said in a press release. “Some of his lesser-known work for books can even be said to mark major turning points in his work, such as around 1960, when he decided to move from charming illustrations to serious fine art in the then-daring new mode of Pop Art.”
The exhibit combines Warhol’s pre-digital era with present day thanks to digital tablets on display throughout the second floor. Many of the books are presented on digital tablets, as well as the original printed editions, allowing visitors to scroll through and enlarge the pages. Another interactive feature includes reading areas for adults and children.
“Warhol By the Book” opened at Williams College Museum of Art in Massachusetts over the summer, and after its stay in Pittsburgh, will travel to other museums.
“It’s a show we organized and then will travel. Obviously it’s a great show. I’m sure it’ll catch on,” Beck said. “Matt’s been dabbling with these ideas for a long time. All of these seeds have been here a long time. It’s just pulling it into context. And Matt did a great job with that.”