I had not planned my visit around the Phoenix Art Museum's exhibition of portraits by the pop art icon Andy Warhol, it was an example of artistic serendipity. The images are familiar, famous people rendered in garish colors via silkscreens created from photographs. But, by having the opportunity to get close to the works the depth of the pieces becomes apparent. Some are layered, silkscreens on top of silkscreens creating, because of the imprecise nature of the process, works containing multiple outlines of the same image. Some are embellished with ink or acrylic over the silkscreened image, some silkscreens rendered on linen canvasses heavily layered in paint. Pencil and ink sketches created during his youth are included allowing me to witness the onset of his artistic point of view, including his early obsession with celebrity and celebrities. On several occasions he vowed to quit his art and concentrate on filmmaking, yet always returned to it in the end. His life cut short at the age of 58, one wonders what he might think of today's ubiquitous "famous for being famous" culture.
We moved through the rest of the museum. The collection includes a Diego Rivera work so indicative of the artists style that it is recognizable as his from across the gallery. There are other works including a Hans Hoffman and the vivid colors and harsh lines of a Thomas Hart Benton. On one hall hangs an almost poignant, uncharacteristically small Rothko showing the deeply emotional expressionist using an uncharacteristically bright pallet. Glass walled overlooks provide views of the institutions sculpture gardens and the urban landscape surrounding the museum.
As with the Magritte exhibition I saw in Chicago last year seeing this many works by a single artist massed together gave me a more complete overview of the man, his art and his vision.