Andy Warhol’s “Ads” Exhibition Anniversary

by Chris Murray on June 4, 2010

It was twenty-five years ago on May 23rd, 1985 that Govinda Gallery launched Andy Warhol’s latest series of silkscreens titled “Ads,” one of four exhibitions Govinda Gallery was proud to present of Warhol’s silkscreen works. Washington Post art critic Jo Ann Lewis wrote a review of the exhibition on May 25th, 1985. That review and the original invitation for the exhibition are reproduced here. In her review, Lewis wrote “…one of Warhol’s best and most approachable shows in recent years.”

Copyright © Andy Warhol. All Rights Reserved.

“Andy Warhol is an expert on fabricated myths. In fact, he is one. As a commercial artist in his early years, he designed advertising campaigns not only for I. Miller shoes and NBC, but for on of the most saleable items in mid-20th-century America: himself. “Ads,” his new portfolio of 10 silkscreen prints at Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, marks a return to this world, which he so fondly understands.

Warhol-now appearing in the TV Coke commercials-has taken as his subject matter magazine advertisements from the 50’s: Ronald Reagan touting Van Heusen’s “won’t wrinkle ever!” drip-dry shirts; Judy Garland wearing a “what becomes a legend most” Blackglama mink coat; Mobil’s now grounded flying red horse.

It is a show that’s easy to like, thanks in a large part to Warhol himself. For years, he’s been rubbing our noses in popular culture, forcing us to look hard at images we’d become inured to, from Campbell’s soup cans to electric chairs. Because he’s been so noncommittal as to the point of these provocative images, people have been forced to think for themselves and extrapolate meanings. In the process (and with the help of many other Pop artists) we’ve become more visually aware-and skeptical-about commercial attempts to seduce us with fabricated myths.

There is inevitably an element of nostalgia in these ads for products and movies from the past, such as the deliciously colored, five-cent Life Savers as that reads “please do not lick this page!” But there is irony as well as poignancy in the Warholized figure of James Dean in a blood-red poster advertising “Rebel Without a Cause”- in Japanese; and the legendary Judy Garland, appropriately rendered in black-and-blue as she models mink.

The most uncannily timely as is that of the “won’t wrinkle ever!” Ronald Reagan in a drip-dry Van Heusen shirt, with the line at the bottom crediting his then-latest film: “Law and Order.” The image has been tipped slightly to give the appearance of a movie freeze-frame-something that did not happen in the original ad. Warhol reveals his wit and sense of irony in the way he has altered this and other images, though ever so slightly. In all of them, he caresses the image with his nervous line-a classic part of the Warholizing process.

Also on view is another new Warhol series: four silkscreen variations on Cologne cathedral, with diamond dust adding glitter. They were published in Germany in an edition of 60. The black-on-black is perhaps the most haunting, given the dark history of the cathedral during World War II.

The “Ads” portfolio, printed in an edition of 190, was commissioned by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. This print show-one of Warhol’s best and most approachable in recent years-will continue at Govinda, 1227 34th St. NW, through June 30. Hours are 11 till 4 Tuesdays through Saturdays.”

The Govinda Gallery invitation to Andy Warhol’s “Ads” exhibition, May 23 through June 30, 1985:

Copyright © Andy Warhol. All Rights Reserved.

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