Warhol’s Animals: Species At Risk
The king of pop art just may have something to say after all. Andy Warhol, who never set his sights higher than the can of Campbell’s soup he idolized in the early 1960s or the vapid faces of the Beautiful People he silk-screened in the 1970s, has discovered the animal kingdom. Not that Andy would produce pop portraits of any old rabbit or cow. In this exhibition’s 10 silk screens, which were inspired by photographer-wildlife champion Peter Beard, Warhol has focused on species that are currently in jeopardy. Composed with crayon-bright colors, the silk screens have a genuine emotional impact. Take the orangutan, or Pongo pygmaeus. Seemingly aware of his fate, he looms poignantly in this portrait, his expression human and deep. Then there’s Ailuropoda melanoleuca, or the giant panda. There are only about 1,000 now roaming the wilds of southwestern China. This panda sits sadly on his bright-red haunches, his magenta ears decorating his head. Most enchanting and nervous of the group is Hyla andersoni, or the Pine Barrens tree frog. The acidic bogs he prefers are being cut out from under him. Warhol has captured his bulging eyes and the little webbed green feet that clutch a purple branch as if for dear life. The seven other animals are the Siberian tiger, African elephant, San Francisco silverspot butterfly, North American bighorn sheep, bald eagle, Grevy’s zebra and black rhinoceros.
The exhibition, which was first shown at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is now appearing at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, then will make stops at the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, the Eastern Washington University Foundation in Cheney, Wash, and the San Diego Natural History Museum.