Saturday, August 1, 2015

Andy Warhol Book Exhibit at Williams College Museum of Art

We are lucky to have so many cultural gems around southern Vermont, upstate New York and the Berkshires: MassMoca, Bennington Museum, Tang Museum, Clark Institute of Art, Hyde Collection, Salem Art Works, etc. Add The Williams College Museum of Art to this wonderful list. It's a great museum housing several floors of artwork, from ancient to contemporary. In addition to the Warhol exhibit described below, there were current exhibits on Maurice and Charles Prendergast, James Abbott McNeil Whistler, three centuries of American art, and art dating from the time of and subsequently inspired by The Trojan War.

I recently visited the Museum to catch the Warhol by the Book exhibit, which is an extensive survey of Warhol's early book illustrations, his artist's books, his hilariously satirical French haute cuisine cookbook, his pop-up "children's book for hipsters", and other books by and about the late artist.

I've had some interesting Warhol illustrated book jackets and books come into the shop over the years, but I hadn't realized how prolific a book artist he had been throughout his career. On display were early Warhol illustrations for novels by Douglas Firbank, whimsical artwork for various volumes of the Best in Children's Books series, collaborations with poets, candy-colored prints of cats, erotic print pairings of flowers and penises, and the intricate book/toy "Andy Warhol's Index" with its lenticular plastic cover, pop-ups, balloon to blow up, and origami duodecahedron on a string.

Printed on some of the walls above the exhibits were some interesting bookish quotes from the Great Provocateur, like: "I never read, I just look at pictures." A separate room styled as a living room contained a recreation of Warhol's personal library, which he apparently and perversely shelved fore-edges out. The library recreation contained a number of fairly mundane titles, ranging from Sandra Boynton's "Chocolate: The Consuming Passion" to the 1957 edition of "Ladies' Home Journal of Interior Decorating" to Roger Vadim's "Memoirs of the Devil". From cozy armchairs, one could peruse Warhol's books on several Rolodexes or flip through recently purchased copies of his book favorites, many of which still contained their "ThriftBooks" and other penny seller labels on their covers.

I'll be headed back to the Museum this coming Thursday, August 6th at 4 pm to catch the Warhol and Collecting Books lecture by Museum Curator Kathryn Price and Bookseller Andreas Brown, formerly of the Gotham Book Mart. According to the Summer 2015 museum guide, it's a chance to "Celebrate Warhol's birthday with a distinguished bibliophile. Brown and Price consider the legacy of Warhol's book work, the lure and collectability of books, the book as art object, and Brown's experiences running a bookshop." Cake and a toast to what would have been Warhol's 87th birthday follow.

Warhol by the Book will be shown at the Williams College Museum of Art until August 16, 2015, after which it will be packed up and moved to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh for exhibition in October.

The Williams College Museum of Art is open every day during the summer from 10 am to 5 pm and on Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm. And it's FREE admission. Make sure to patronize the nice selection at the Museum gift shop to acknowledge this great little museum.

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