There are two exhibits in Washington now that feature Andy Warhol’s artwork, with different focuses. Warhol: Headlines at the National Gallery of Art explores the artist’s pieces about the news media. Across the mall, Andy Warhol: Shadows at the Hirshhorn Museum showcases a single Warhol project — that of 102 similar canvases arranged in a long line. Personally, I enjoyed the Shadows exhibit more. The line of canvases keeps stretching on and on, along the Hirshhorn’s curved wall (the museum is a circle with an open courtyard). The forms in each abstract image differ a little bit, but it’s the color that jumped out at me. Bright colors alternate and pop as I walked by the many canvases, making me think of a busy, blurry New York City street.
(Above photo, of Andy Warhol: Shadows, is from the Hirshhorn Museum’s website.)
Did you eat lots of soup, Andy?
Were all of those Campbell’s soup cans
your lunches on the days
you screenprinted them?
You seemed fascinated by the ordinary,
of soup cans and lips,
of cows and Coke bottles,
of newspapers and shadows,
of lips and cows,
of Coke bottles and shadows,
of soup cans and newspapers.
But then, maybe those things
are more than ordinary
if you look at them closely enough
and explore our relationship with them,
with you holding a mirror to the world
(or a world to the mirror)
presented these everyday things back to us
–along with Marilyn and Elvis–
in repeated rows and columns:
(and again in columns and rows)
like products lined up on store shelves,
with wildpop pinks oranges neons of NYC,
showing us our world reflected,
popped by inflected,
neither accepted nor rejected,
laid out so they can be inspected
with someone else’s eyes.