American artist Andy Warhol’s oversized paintings of Campbell’s soup cans struck a nerve when he first exhibited them in 1962.
Though he didn’t invent pop art, a movement dedicated to appropriating and commenting on pop cultural imagery, Warhol arguably became its most famous practitioner before his death in 1987, someone who shaped pop culture instead of just observing and reacting to it.
“He still, in the imagination, has a very contemporary feel,” said Patrick Shaw Cable, the Taubman Museum of Art’s deputy director of exhibitions and education.
Art by Warhol and his contemporaries and successors populates the Taubman’s latest banner exhibition, “POP Power from Warhol to Koons: Masterworks from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.” Curated by Cable, the show illustrates the ascendancy of pop art using 118 works by 14 world famous artists. “POP Power” opens Saturday.
The artists represented include Warhol and influential peers from his day such as Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana; later artists such as Keith Haring, whose style evoked graffiti; and Takashi Murakami, sometimes called the “Japanese Andy Warhol”; and controversial contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst, whose art inspired the book “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark,” and Jeff Koons, whose sculpture “Rabbit,” a stainless steel replica of a balloon animal, sold for $91 million in May.
Almost all of the works in the show come from the 14,000-piece collection of Oregon-based real estate developer Jordan Schnitzer and his family foundation. “His mother opened the door for him in terms of that love of art,” said Taubman Executive Director Cindy Petersen. “Sharing with smaller communities like our own, that is his mission.”
“POP Power” fills the museum’s special exhibitions gallery, which previously housed shows such as “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” and “Drive! Iconic American Cars and Motorcycles.” As with those shows, there’s an admission charge to see “POP Power.” General admission to the Taubman is free.
Funds from Schnitzer’s foundation and a matching amount raised by the Taubman will allow children 17 and under to visit “POP Power” free of charge. Schnitzer will speak at the museum Friday during a full day of preview events for museum members.
Fulfilling Schnitzer’s wishes for further sharing, after “POP Power” closes March 8, 2020, the show will travel to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, along with the audio tour and extended gallery guide developed by Cable.
The brightly colored works from 1960s pop art continue to resonate 50 years later in a way that’s not true of other art movements of the time, Cable said. The way pop art incorporated and reacted to mass production and the colorful banality of advertising paved the way for artists like Koons.
Naturally, “POP Power” holds one of Warhol’s soup cans. (Cheddar cheese, if you’re curious.) It also holds several of his prints sprinkled with diamond dust, including a series reproducing the likeness of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II and Swaziland’s Queen Ntombi Twala.
Lichtenstein’s large prints derived from comic book panels appear, as does a carpet reproducing Indiana’s instantly familiar “LOVE” design. There are playful inflatable sculptures by the late French American artist Niki de Saint-Phalle, one of them from the Taubman’s own collection.
An example of the humor found in pop art and contemporary neo-pop comes from New York artist Richard Prince. His print on canvas, “Untitled (Girlfriend),” appears to be a portrait of an actress, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly who. That’s because it’s a composite averaging the features of 57 actresses who played comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriends on his sitcom “Seinfeld.”
Prince has said he got the idea after watching an episode when one of the women dumped Seinfeld and thinking, “Man, Jerry’s had a lot of girlfriends.”
Adding to the shows themes of appropriation of pop culture, “POP Power” has interactive elements that allow visitors to stand within images projected on the wall and take animated GIF selfies to post to Instagram.
Activities during Saturday’s day-long opening include workshops on screenprinting, a technique often employed by Warhol, and a session on making balloon dogs inspired by Koons’ monumental sculptures. Southwest Virginia Ballet and Sarah Wade from Music Lab and Jefferson Center will perform.