I’m for mechanical art. When I took up silkscreening, it was to more fully exploit the preconceived image through commercial techniques of multiple reproduction. —Andy Warhol
The Portland Art Museum is pleased to present Andy Warhol: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, opening October 8, 2016. This major retrospective exhibition of approximately 250 Andy Warhol prints and ephemera from the collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer is the largest of its kind ever to be presented. It spans two floors of the Museum and includes instantly recognizable images such as Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato) and Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn).
Printmaking was a vital artistic practice for Andy Warhol. Prints figure prominently throughout his career from his earliest work as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, to the collaborative silkscreens made in the Factory during the ‘60s and the commissioned portfolios of his final years. Portland collector Jordan D. Schnitzer’s comprehensive collection establishes the range of Warhol’s innovative graphic production as it evolved over the course of four decades. The artist’s well-known fascination with popular culture also instills the exhibition with a chronicle of American life in the second half of the twentieth century. The two threads come together to reveal how Warhol’s print publishing enterprise underscores the evolution of today’s hyper sophisticated, saturated, and savvy visual culture.
The exhibition is organized chronologically and by series. The structure demonstrates in depth Warhol’s use of different printmaking techniques, beginning with illustrated books and ending with screen printing. The exhibition also highlights links between Warhol’s obsession with serial image repetition and the essence of printmaking as a mechanical means for reproducing images. With this convergence, Warhol famously complicated distinctions between the original and the reproduction. The results muddied the conventional approach of highly valuing unique works that display the artist’s touch, instead celebrating print multiples as a medium for experimentation.
“Andy Warhol harnessed the allure of media images of celebrity, consumer goods, sex, death, and disaster to create his iconic pop art,” said exhibition curator Sara Krajewski, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “This retrospective provides an in-depth look at how the artist manipulated the seductive power of the photographic and the televisual in his printmaking. Thirty-five years of prints offer a compelling view of Warhol’s critical use of new imaging formats and technologies, from newsprint distribution to instant cameras, television and video. Our comprehensive survey of Warhol’s vast print production demonstrates Warhol’s impact on the evolution of contemporary visual culture.”
Warhol’s prints present a journey through the reproduced image in American popular culture: from icons Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe to the socially charged Birmingham civil rights protests and political posters of the 1970s. In its entirety, the exhibition offers a bellwether of contemporary life and society’s ongoing obsession with celebrities, fashion, political figures, athletes, sensationalism, and scandal.
“The Portland Art Museum’s ambitious overview of Andy Warhol’s prints offers an opportunity to see the artist anew,” observes Richard H. Axsom, contributing essayist to the exhibition catalogue. “Playing upon and manipulating the imagery of popular culture, Warhol fashioned in his major print series a body of work of immeasurable power. Under-appreciated is its profound humanity, often obscured by the glamor and glitz of Warhol’s public persona. For an artist known for his superficiality, Warhol was among the least superficial artists of his time.”
Andy Warhol: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation is accompanied by an exhibition catalog published in partnership with the Foundation. A number of public and school programs will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition, including lectures by exhibition curator Krajewski and Blake Gopnik, art critic and Warhol scholar; Jordan Schnitzer in conversation with Richard H. Axsom, senior curator at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; and a variety of workshops, artist demonstrations, school tours, and community activities.
Organized by the Portland Art Museum. Curated by Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.
A Conversation with Jordan D. Schnitzer
The Andy Warhol prints on view this fall represent just a fraction of the collection of more than 9,500 prints assembled by Portland real-estate investor and philanthropist Jordan D. Schnitzer. Drawing from one of the country’s largest private print collections, including many important contemporary artists, the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation has organized over 100 exhibitions at nearly 80 museums. Mr. Schnitzer helped design and fund the renovation of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, and is now funding a new museum at Washington State University in Pullman. A longtime Museum supporter and the son of Life Trustees Arlene and the late Harold Schnitzer, he spoke with us about the genius of Warhol and the importance of sharing a passion for art.
How did you start collecting?
I began collecting art in the early ’60s. What’s exciting about this Warhol show is, for me and our family, this is where it all started. When I went to first grade at Ainsworth grade school, my mother enrolled at the Portland Art Museum art school. I’d come down after school to see my mother and meet Mike Russo and Louis Bunce, who were amazing figures to me then. So to think about this exciting Warhol exhibition in the same building that previously held the classrooms—it’s quite a homecoming.
The first piece of art I actually bought was from the Fountain Gallery of Art, which my mother opened when I was in the third grade. It’s a study by Bunce called Sanctuary, and it was $75. And with the family discount I paid $60—five dollars a month. If I missed a payment, my mother knew where to foreclose, because my bedroom was right next to theirs.
What drew you to Andy Warhol?
Artists have always been chroniclers of our time. If we want to go back and understand any age of history—the Egyptians, the Romans, Greeks—we go back and look at art and culture. Artists are the ones on the frontline, pushing the envelope, forcing us to deal with the issues of the time.
Today, when our smartphones bombard us with what to think, where to go, what to eat, who to see, art is probably the last refuge. Whatever we see in works of art—whether it’s Michelangelo’s David or Andy Warhol’s Marilyn set—no one else can tell us that our interpretation, our feelings, our thoughts aren’t right.
Andy Warhol understood that. He was the greatest of the Pop artists because his work so perfectly meshed with the themes of his time—and our time. When Warhol got to New York in the early ‘60s as a graphic artist, it was the age of Madison Avenue and Mad Men. So the artists of that time were asking, how do we find our values when we’re being bombarded with one advertising message after another? The challenges of popular culture shaped Warhol’s greatness as a fine artist.
I think this Warhol exhibition will knock people’s socks off. It will be the largest Warhol exhibition ever mounted, in terms of the number of pieces, and it’s going to turn this museum into the Factory of the ‘60s and Studio 54 of the ‘70s. It will be a Magical Mystery Tour of another time and place, with themes that are relevant today.
In these screen prints, you can also see one of Warhol’s objectives throughout his whole life, which was the democratization of art. He was saying art is all around us, not just in museums, not just for some elitist people—next time you’re in the grocery store, look around at the shapes, the forms, the graphic designs. In choosing the elementary technique of the screen print, he was essentially making a statement to mass-produce art, to get it out to the public.
You’ve been successful in getting art out to the public as well, by inviting museums to create exhibitions from your family foundation’s print collection. Was that your intention in building this collection?
Well, first, I simply love the art. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s sculpture, canvas, paper, digital prints, Xerox prints, ceramics—whatever medium an artist wants to use. And while I collect in this print collection what I’ll call the post-World War II modern masters—Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Richard Serra—I always talk about the importance of supporting our local artists.
My first love—and still greatest love—is our local artist. In my bedroom I have a fabulous Mike Russo painting and a Lucinda Parker painting. And I love mixing the greatest of the American artists’ works on paper with the best of our Northwest artists in all mediums.
But I’ve become so enamored, madly in love with works on paper. Roughly 25 years ago I started buying a few prints, and then a few more, and a few more. Then when some museums started asking if they could have exhibitions, the light went on and I thought, “Wow, maybe I’ll marry my passion for buying art with a public exhibition program!” That program now encompasses over 100 exhibitions at more than 75 museums—all of which we do for free—and therefore it has allowed me to be obsessive about buying the works on paper because they’re more affordable than the canvas works of these artists. I’m able to collect works on paper in mass, which allows me to share a broad range of work by these modern masters.
Let’s take this Warhol exhibition as an example. If I were lucky enough to own a Warhol painting or two, I’d feel like I was the luckiest person in the world. On the other hand, I’ve collected about 700 Warhol prints, so when [Portland Art Museum Director] Brian Ferriso called up and said, “Can we do a Warhol show?”—well, if I’d had a Warhol painting, I’d say, fine, you can borrow the painting. But because the Museum could borrow more than 260 prints for this exhibition, thousands of viewers are able to see some of the earliest work Andy Warhol did and the last work that he did, and hundreds in between. They can get in the mind of this brilliant man as he moved from one theme to another to another. Because prints allow me to collect both broadly and deeply, visitors to this extraordinary retrospective can get a broader, deeper understanding of the artist and his work.
What is your goal in making these exhibitions possible?
The goal of those exhibitions is sheer, unadulterated joy. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who gets as much pleasure as I do from going to these exhibitions and seeing this art—and that joy is only surpassed by the joy I have in sharing it. I have no sense of ownership, only a sense of stewardship.
We get to work with so many wonderful regional museums and incredible art leaders. The curators pick whatever they want from the richness of this collection, for free, mixing and matching works to put together strong exhibitions with hard-hitting themes. Wichita Museum of Art has one this fall called Shiny Sticky Smooth: Pop Art and the Senses. In Laramie, Wyoming, they just had an amazing exhibition of Kara Walker, the preeminent African American artist in the country today, and down in Louisiana, the Alexandria Museum of Art has one coming up called Beyond Mammy, Jezebel, & Sapphire: Reclaiming Images of Black Women.
I’m thrilled to help make these exhibitions and programs happen, for the same reason I support the university art museums: to bring in the next generation and help them realize the importance of these cultural institutions. Part of my Johnny Appleseed mission is to help develop and expand art museums on university campuses, where they make going to those institutions part of their ordinary campus life. Then maybe when they’re home, they’ll come by their local art museum and get involved, and thus we create patrons for the future.
One thing I’ve learned is that in too many communities, the school districts are broke, and the programs they had when I was growing up—field trips and so forth—are so limited. So in addition to loaning the work for free as we’ve done here at the Portland Art Museum, we generally offer the museums funding to bring school kids in, host artists-in-residence, and present lecture series.
A couple of years ago, we had an exhibition called Under Pressure travel to the Missoula Art Museum. It included Joe Feddersen and Rick Bartow—two of our favorite Northwest artists, both Native Americans. I worked with the museum director not only to fund buses for local school kids, but also to bring in 300 Kootanai and Salish kids from the nearby reservation. We also added more Feddersen and Bartow works from our collection, and brought in Joe Feddersen for a week as an artist-in-residence.
When I’m asked why I’m excited about sharing the work, I think about those 300 Native American kids from Missoula, seeing this terrific work by Rick Bartow and Joe Feddersen, two Native artists, right up there with Warhol and Ellsworth Kelly, Kara Walker and Helen Frankenthaler. And maybe they thought, “Wow, if those people could do that, maybe I could too.” That’s how dreams start. So to be part of that—how lucky I am.
And how lucky I’ve been to grow up in this town, work hard and be able to give back to it. Art is a gift we all can give. If you can pass on a passion for the arts—whether it’s visual arts, dance, music, theater—it’s something they can always go to. And when they have ups and downs in their lives, maybe it’s a place they can go to get a break, to get a better perspective, and feel how lucky they are to be alive and experiencing that form of art and culture.
Remember, too many eyes won’t wear out the Warhol work. So bring your kids, your grandkids, bring the neighbor kids; go get your aunt and uncle, your grandparents—flood the museum with people. Let Andy Warhol reach out and speak to every single one of them who comes to visit this incredible exhibition.
For more information about the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, visit www.jordanschnitzer.org.
A condensed version of this conversation appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Portal, the Museum’s member magazine.
Video: Rick Bartow
In 2014, the late Rick Bartow spoke at the Missoula Art Museum as part of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation Outreach Program. Bartow explained the importance of art and making “something different,” engaging visiting students in the “Bear Dance” as a way of educating the children about the impact of his personal and cultural experiences on his work. Courtesy of Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.
The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation
Exhibition & Gala Sponsors
Jean M. Coleman
Frederick D. and Gail Y. Jubitz Foundation
Suzanne Geary / Richard & Janet Geary Foundation
The Goodman Family
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David and Dolorosa Margulis
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Elizabeth Leach Gallery
PDX CONTEMPORARY ART
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Lisa Domenico Brooke
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