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July 17, 2015

Andy Warhol in South Texas

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Written by: Nydia O
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Andy Warhol at 1972 opening

There can be no better backdrop for an Andy Warhol (1928-1987) exhibit than the Art Museum of South Texas, for it revisits the history that brought two tremendously talented individuals to South Texas back in 1972. October of 1972 saw the unveiling of the most exiting building Philip Johnson believed to have designed until that time. A bold, strikingly white structure perched on the banks of Corpus Christi Bay. “It’s more like a marshmallow carved, if you can carve a marshmallow” said Philip Johnson to Barbara Rose during a videotaped interview currently part of the Warhol exhibit at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi, Texas.

From the moment you arrive and approach the building, the aesthetic experience begins. Cascading waterfalls, green lawns, the Harbor Bridge and the blue waters of the bay are the prelude to a memorable event.   “What we have here is most certainly fine art. The prints are graphic, but not graphic design,” stated Deborah Fullerton curator of exhibitions at the Art Museum of South Texas when referring to their current exhibit titled WARHOL: Myths and Legends from the Cochran Collection. The exhibition that has South Texas buzzing features 36 of Warhol’s signature silkscreens and one drawing entitled “Hello Wesley” from the private collection of Wesley and Missy Cochran of La Grange, Georgia. In addition, complete sets of Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians and Myths series as well as two versions of Moonwalk and iconic celebrity images have been masterly curated in the Chapman Gallery. The temporary acquisition of this exhibit was solidified thanks to the friendship between the museum’s director and the Cochrans according to Fullerton.

“We hope this exhibit provides insight into Warhol’s personality. The man who wanted to be a machine was actually somewhat spiritual. He had the ability to respond to events around him and suspend them in scenes to make them epically beautiful. Powerful, but never grotesque.” Said Fullerton adding that Warhol’s work astonished people even during the installation process. “The admiration and recognition of his work is tremendous. Like Philip Johnson’s architecture, Warhol’s works are complete and compelling. Complex yet spare. A striking screen print titled Superman, to whom Warhol felt a personal connection stemming from a childhood immobilizing sickness, boasts Warhol’s thematic bright colors and diamond dust composition. Most of the works on display feature screen prints with diamond dust compositions.

A twenty minute video of Johnson and Warhol makes this exhibit particularly special. It was from 1972 and Johnson is seen sitting next to Warhol discussing the building’s design concept surrounded by a retro modern space.  He talks about Corpus Christi’s natural light and the bay and why he chose a poured white concrete and shell aggregate material. He talks about the building’s placement and shape. In the video, Warhol discusses the art pieces he chose for the museum’s unveiling exhibit.  How wonderful is this?

Colorful anecdotes of the 1972 museum unveiling ceremonies, and the opening exhibit curated by Johnson’s lifetime partner David Whitney are so vivid today that the museum held a special event last month to reminisce.  Stories talk of Warhol snapping Polaroids of attendants back then are reinforced by original black and white images on display. On that occasion, the opening exhibition consisted of the works of three masters of modern art: Jasper Johns, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. This will be the second time Warhol’s work visits South Texas with the exception of a single piece that is part of the museum’s permanent collection.  Today, Philip Johnson’s building is flanked by another imposing modern structure designed by the Mexican Architect Ricardo Legorreta in 2006. This building houses the Chapman Gallery where Warhol’s exhibit will be displayed through July 19, 2015.

Corpus Christi is approximately 150 miles away from the Rio Grande Valley, so plan ahead and make it a day or a weekend getaway. The Warhol exhibit was made possible by private sector donations and community support sparing additional admission costs. Admission is free for children under 12, and less than $8 for seniors and active military. The museum is located at 1902 North Shoreline Boulevard in Corpus Christi, Texas and it is closed on Mondays. For more information please visit ArtMuseumofSouthTexas.org

A special thank you to the Art Museum of South Texas for providing me with the great  photograph of Andy Warhol during the 1972 Museum opening reception.

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .




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