Warhol gets another 15 minutes with 'Social Observer' show

— He made the Campbell's soup can a work of art and captured the imagination of millions with his silkscreen portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Mao Tse-tung.

Now, 13 years after his death, Pop Art pioneer Andy Warhol is the subject of a major one-man show of his work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

"Andy Warhol: Social Observer," opened Saturday. It presents a wide variety of work including a film that goes on for eight hours and five minutes, showing just one view of the Empire State Building.

There's an untypical "abstract sculpture" � actually a painting done in paint and ink � that has not been shown in a museum before.

Introducing the show, Corcoran Director David C. Levy pointed out that Warhol was at the center of the Pop Art movement of the 1960s � "a very tumultuous politically and socially conscious moment in American history."

There's also an autographed Campbell's soup can like the one Warhol repeatedly painted.

Levy said artists of the 1940s and 1950s who worked in abstract styles were taking a break from looking at the world around them. Then came the '60s.

"They looked at the world with very fresh eyes and they saw the world that was dominated by imagery created by media," he said, "and out of that came Pop and out of Pop, I think, has come a whole new understanding of what representational art is about. As we now enter the 21st century, I think it's (a) fascinating, immensely important moment."

The show also featured Warhol's take on Washington and politics � he generally favored Democrats. In the 1972 campaign, Warhol did a screenprint for them, portraying what Curator Jonathan P. Binstock calls "a nauseous green Nixon" with the caption "Vote McGovern." George McGovern was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate.

But when an interviewer asked him whom he favored for president, Warhol replied "Nixon is just great." Why? "He travels so much � like a movie star. A Superstar." It was the kind of remark that prompted critics to say that Warhol was interested chiefly in money and publicity.

The same year he did well with over 1,000 canvases and an edition of screenprints. They all represented Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-tung, whom Binstock says Warhol considered the world's most famous person at the time.


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