Williamstown, Mass. – The first US exhibition to concentrate on Andy Warhol’s book work, Warhol by the Book opens at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) March 7 and will be on view through August 16, 2015. Creating books was a vital part of Warhol’s
career. From his student days in the 1940s to his death in 1987, Warhol experimented wildly with form and content, turning traditional notions of media and authorship on their heads.
More than 400 objects covering more than 80 book titles including unique and unpublished materials come together from WCMA and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The exhibition showcases a range of material from Warhol’s practice including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and artist’s books. It also includes projections of sixteen Screen Test portrait-films of writers. Warhol had a lifelong fascination with the written word and with the book as an art form. Featuring drawings created to fulfill college assignments, to the Party Book, which was in development at the time of his death, Warhol by the Book traces the artist’s ideas, influences, collaborations, and innovations throughout his career.
“Printed books were essential in Warhol's daily life and with almost every known example of his work for books represented, this exhibition demonstrates his prolific and diverse contribution to the field of publishing,” says Matt Wrbican, Chief Archivist, The Andy Warhol Museum and Curator of Warhol by the Book.
Featured in the exhibition are:
Warhol by the Book highlights WCMA’s important holdings of nearly 300 Warhols, many of which were given by Richard F. Holmes Class of ’46. Before Warhol became famous for his Pop art, he produced extensive commercial art as well as self-published works often made in collaboration with friends in the 1950s. The Holmes gift includes a near complete collection of these books produced in limited numbers: A is an Alphabet, Love is a Pink Cake, 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy, Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother, In The Bottom of My Garden, A Gold Book, and Wild Raspberries.
Many of Warhol’s projects focused on the book as an object. He blended the borders of art, design, and text. Andy Warhol’s Index (Book) (1967), was the first of several books to defy the definition of a book. This seminal publication has been called a “children’s book for hipsters,” complete with sound recordings, balloons, fold-outs, holograms, and even a doit-yourself nose job. Three preliminary mock-ups for this project are featured from WCMA’s collection, showing how the book changed from inception to its final state. Further playing with form and content Warhol produced a novel from transcriptions of audiotapes, which is exhibited with the very cassette recorder used to make the recordings, and Stephen Shore’s photos that document the sessions.
At WCMA, a gallery will recreate Warhol’s personal library allowing visitors to page through some of his eclectic volumes. As part of the year-long, campus-wide Book Unbound initiative, Warhol by the Book expands the notion of Warhol’s authorship and examines how he challenged the definition of what a book is.
“Books were objects of fascination for Warhol, both as an artist and a collector. In a predigital age, books represented legacy, luxury and lasting fame,” says Eric Shiner, Director of The Andy Warhol Museum. “Warhol by the Book focuses on a little-known, but fascinating aspect of Warhol’s work.”
“Warhol worked out many of his lifelong obsessions—with documentation, reproducibility, mass-produced visual culture, and authorship—through books,” says Christina Olsen, Class of ’56 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art. “For the college community this is an exciting opportunity to delve into some of the most important themes in art of the
Warhol by the Book is organized by The Andy Warhol Museum, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.