MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We move now from the Corcoran to the National Gallery of Art where you can see the legacy of another artist. One who's been world famous for quite a bit more than 15 minutes. Andy Warhol, the painter, printmaker and filmmaker died in 1987, but his work continues to fascinate both art lovers and curators. The National Gallery is hosting its first one-man Warhol show, which includes paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, film and video based largely on the tabloid news. NPR's Susan Stamberg takes us inside "Warhol Headlines."
MS. SUSAN STAMBERG
The National Gallery went all out for this show with a deejay and breakfast at the press preview. Usually, NGA press breakfasts are quiet, staid even with fancy croissants, nicely diced fruit. The Warhol menu was different. No, Campbell's Tomato Soup, but it's glazed donuts, bananas and little bitty hotdogs wrapped in, you know, what they wrap hotdogs in.
MS. SUSAN STAMBERG
Pigs 'n' blankets, that's it. Saving room for the art, I guess. There is lots of Warhol art on view and not just canvases. There are clips from movies he made, there's audio from an LP and there's the man himself on a screen in one gallery, co-hosting the 1983 cable show, "Andy Warhol's TV."
MR. ANDY WARHOL
I'm Andy Warhol and this Maura Moynihan.
And tonight on the show we have...
In his trademark white-fright wig and a blue turtleneck, Warhol stares at the camera, face immobile, even when his lips move. Uneasy, enigmatic, shy but always courting fame and presenting the famous in his art, headline makers; the point of this art show. Andy Warhol collected and painted front-page headlines from the New York tabloids.
MR. MATT WRBICAN
Madonna on nude pics. So what?
Matt Wurbekin (sp?) of the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The 1985 New York Post headline was about photos Playboy ran of Madonna, clad in little more than attitude. She didn't care, but the public did. Readers snatched up these photos for sensational headlines like that and Andy Warhol turned them into paintings.
He had a point according to headline exhibition curator, Molly Donovan. For Warhol, the media, its impact, how it operated was a preoccupation.
MS. MOLLY DONOVAN
I think Warhol was trying to get the consumers of the news to think about the truth in the news overall. The news is a product that we buy as consumers.
Warhol was fascinated by consumerism. He started off as a commercial artist, making illustrations designed to sell products. Molly Donovan says throughout his life certain other themes obsessed Warhol. Again, the subjects of headlines, death, disaster...
Tragedy, celebrity, celebrity babies was subset of celebrities that he was fascinated with.
The very first Headline painting he sold in 1962 was about a celebrity baby.
A boy for Meg.
Page one of The New York Post on Friday, November 3rd, 1961, announced the birth of a son to Princess Margaret of England, the present Queen Elizabeth's younger sister. Warhol painted what looks to be an exact replica of the tabloid headline.
But he cropped information out of this, he edited it and so in his transcription he's editing and in so doing and cutting out information, he's really getting us to look more carefully.
Here's how Warhol worked. He traced the page one tabloid image onto a canvas by using an opaque projector.
Remember those from school? A light is shown on a mirror and it projects the image onto the wall and enlarges it.
So how is that artistic?
It's about the selectivity of the artist. he's choosing from among volumes of newspapers he read daily.
And curator Molly Donovan says Warhol was trying to get us to see ourselves in these headlines. He loved the name of The New York Daily Mirror, felt it mirrored, reflected its readers in the news it published, the news we consumed. We too have babies and at least in that we commoners are just like royalty.
"A Boy For Meg."
Elevating headlines to the status of art, one critic observed, Warhol collected and saved hoards of tabloids. Warhol Museum archivist, Matt Wurbekin, says the painter was a packrat. He filled cartons with all kinds of stuff, a cultural historian gathering evidence of the world around him.
He was taking these objects that were common everyday objects and drawing our attention to them by putting them onto canvas and making them much larger in some cases seven feet tall and making them the icons that they are.
Headlines, soup cans, movie stars, but is all that really the stuff of art. Is there a there-there with Warhol?
Look deeper, look below the surface. His taunt to us that we simply we need look no further than the surface is simply a challenge. Underneath every surface there's something he's telling us.
Maybe there's just another surface.
I think this body of work would argue otherwise.
Molly Donovan's curator of "Warhol Headlines" at the National Gallery of Art until early January, a show in which pop goes the weasel becomes a headline attraction. In Washington, I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR news.
What do you think he'd make of this communications world in which we live, 24-hour news and Twitter and Twitches and all of it?
I think he would have a hard time sleeping.
Susan Stamberg is a special correspondent with NPR and a regular arts contributor to "Metro Connection." For more information on "Warhol Headlines," visit our website, metroconnection.org
And that's "Metro's Connection for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, Emily Friedman and Jim Hilgen along with NPR's Susan Stamberg. Jim Asendio is our news director. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Jonna McKone, Lauren Landau and Peter Domingos produce "Door To Door." Thanks as always to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.
Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts'' and our ''Door To Door'' theme "No Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see a list of all the music we use on our website, metroconnection.org.
And while you're there, you can do all sorts of cool stuff. You can find us on Twitter, like us on Facebook. You can subscribe our weekly podcasts and you can read and print out free transcripts of all the stories you hear on the show. We hope you'll join us next week when we take a look at transitions. We'll meet woman grappling with their new roles as mothers and hear from retirees reshaping the meaning of life after work. Plus, the changing face of 14th Street in Northwest D.C. and what happens when transitions fail to occur. We'll head to Baltimore to check out some of the city's thousands of vacant homes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
Because with 16,000 vacants, we're all just throwing darts at a board, we're never really going to make any progress. So we need to find areas of strength, build from them and then kind of move the line.
I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.