Andy Warhol was known for his controversial pop art, including a 1980 exhibit of 10 “Jewish Geniuses” of the 20th century. The exhibit included such icons as Marilyn Monroe, Golda Meir, George Gershwin, Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.
Like Warhol’s interest in Jewish celebrities, some may be surprised to learn of his fascination with the West.
“WARHOL and the WEST” is a new exhibit at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville that opened Aug. 25 and runs through the end of the year. The 10 pop art serigraphs in the “Cowboys and Indians” exhibit follow the “same playbook” as Warhol’s Jewish series, Seth Hopkins, executive director of the museum, told the AJT.
“Even ardent fans of the American artist, director and producer Andy Warhol aren’t likely aware that the pop icon loved the West. However, the West was a nearly constant influence throughout his life,” Hopkins said.
“Warhol wore cowboy boots more often than not and loved to travel to Taos, Fort Worth and Colorado; and he amassed an overwhelming collection of Native American art and artifacts. In fact, ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ his last major project before his death in 1987, forms the backbone of this major traveling exhibition.”
There are more than 100 objects and works in the exhibit, including cowboy boots and Indian artifacts. They provide context for the portraits, 10 approved pieces and four experimental drafts that were considered for the project, such as images of John Wayne, Geronimo, General Custer and Annie Oakley, Hopkins explained.
The museum is thrilled to be a part of the traveling exhibit, which Hopkins described as being “thought-provoking” and “pushing the boundaries,” as is Warhol’s style. “To be involved in something this big and groundbreaking is very exciting,” he said.
Developed in a partnership with the Tacoma Art Museum and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, “WARHOL and the WEST” is a companion to the 144-page book of the same name that sheds light on the artist’s interest in the subject.
“New scholarship examines how Warhol’s Western work merges the artist’s ubiquitous portrayal of celebrities with his interest in cowboys, American Indians, and other western motifs,” according to the Booth Museum. “His work in the Western genre is immediately recognizable, impressive, daring, inspirational, and sometimes confrontational. This body of work furthers our understanding of how the American West infiltrates the public’s imagination through contemporary art and popular culture.”
The museum exhibit is believed to be the first to “fully explore Andy Warhol’s love of the West represented in his art, movies, attire, travel and collecting.”
The Booth is one of 15 major Western museums in the country and has a more contemporary style that lends itself to hosting such a touring collection, Hopkins said. The Warhol exhibit, though, is even more edgy than the typical cowboy and Indian series visitors “think about when they come out to the museum,” he said.
The Booth Museum claims to the be the largest of its kind in the Southeast and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The 120,000-square-foot museum resembles a modern pueblo. “The Booth’s permanent collection of Western art, presidential portraits and letters, and Civil War art allows visitors to ‘see America’s story’— the land, people, struggles, dreams, and legends — in paintings, sculpture, photography and artifacts.”
“WARHOL and the WEST” runs from Aug. 25 to Dec. 31 at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville. For ticket sales and more information, visit boothmuseum.org. 770-387-1300.