People & Places

Andy Warhol's works filling up Cedar Rapids gallery with pop culture icons

Andy Warhol’s “Moonwalk,” 49/160, silk-screen, 38 inches by 38 inches, depicts the historic 1969 event that captured the world’s imagination. The 1987 work from the artist’s unfinished “Television” series is among the pieces in “Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works,” on display from Saturday (5/14) to Oct. 2 at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. The artwork are on loan from the private collection of Wesley and Missy Cochran of LaGrange, Ga.
Andy Warhol’s “Moonwalk,” 49/160, silk-screen, 38 inches by 38 inches, depicts the historic 1969 event that captured the world’s imagination. The 1987 work from the artist’s unfinished “Television” series is among the pieces in “Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works,” on display from Saturday (5/14) to Oct. 2 at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. The artwork are on loan from the private collection of Wesley and Missy Cochran of LaGrange, Ga.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Pop Art is popping up Saturday (5/14) at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, in heart of Czech Village.

“Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works” features 36 pieces of late artist Andy Warhol’s pop culture silk-screens, from the private collection of Wesley and Missy Cochran of Georgia.

The exhibit, about two years in the making, will be on display through Oct. 2 in the first-floor Petrik Gallery. Among the large-scale images — generally measuring 38 inches by 38 inches or 42 inches by 42 inches — are portraits of pop icons real and fictional, from JFK and the 1969 moon walk to John Wayne dressed as a cowboy and the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.” Most were created in the ’80s, before Warhol’s death in 1987 at age 58.

It’s the first of two overlapping exhibitions with Czech and Slovak ties. Titled “Powder & Pop,” the museum is billing the pair as “a couple of bigwigs who wore big wigs: Andy and Amadeus.”

The latter, on display Aug. 13 to Dec. 31 in the Smith Gallery, showcases costumes and memorabilia from the film “Amadeus,” an opulent look at the life, genius and decadence of composer/musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Shot in Prague, Moravia and Vienna, the film swept up eight Academy Awards in 1985, including best director honors for Milos Forman, best costume design for Theodor Pistek and best art design for Karel Cerny, all Czech natives.

“We’re saying we’re ‘wigging out,’ because with ‘Amadeus,’ that’s an obvious one, but many people don’t know that Andy Warhol actually wore a wig,” said Laura Formanek, the museum’s director of marketing and communications. “There’s kind of an ’80s pop culture influence in those (‘Amadeus’) costumes, so it just goes really well with the Andy Warhol, too,” she said.

“We’re excited that there’s going to be just over a month of overlap for the two exhibits. You can catch them both.”

WARHOL’S LIFE

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Andrew Warhola was born Aug. 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, the youngest of three sons born to Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants Andrej and Julia Warhola, whose home village is now part of Slovakia. The boys grew up speaking their parents’ dialect at home, and struggled with English at school. Warhol thought he was Czech — until he met supermodel Paulina Porizkova in 1986.

“He wrote down in his diary that night that ‘I must not be Czech because I couldn’t understand them,’” museum curator Stefanie Kohn said.

Warhol’s mother was artistic and encouraged her boys to draw her pictures, then she would judge them and give the winner a candy bar.

“He always won,” Kohn said of Andy. “He had a sweet tooth the rest of his life.”

Warhol was sickly in his youth, and spent a lot of time in a bed set up in the dining room, not far from his mother’s watchful eyes. There he pored over the coloring books and comic books she gave him, and observed all the everyday items surrounding him. Later, while his mother was being treated for colon cancer, Warhol’s older brother took over the cooking and fed him Campbell’s soup and a sandwich every day.

“They had Campbell’s soup cans all over their house,” Kohn said, adding that the older brother also showed Warhol how to melt wax onto a spoon and lift images off comics, the way later generations would do with Silly Putty.

He was used to using photographic images or comic drawings to create art, which would later become the basis for his iconic artwork and process.

“That was kind of a natural progression for him,” Kohn said.

Warhol’s deeply religious family also attended their neighborhood Byzantine Catholic church every day, where the walls were adorned with colorful two-dimensional portraits of the saints, each one framed in white.

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“It’s just portrait, portrait, portrait, portrait, portrait of the various saints,” Kohn said. “If you look at that, you think, ‘Wow, that came back to him.’ It’s so obvious some of the influences in his youth went into his art.”

INFLUENCE

Andy Warhol is a name that resonates across the generations.

Formanek, 27, of Iowa City, remembers seeing his Marilyn Monroe portraits, then learned more about him during her college art history classes.

“His influence is everywhere,” she said.

Kohn, 50, of Cedar Rapids, grew up with MTV in the ’80s, watching “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes,” drawing from his quote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

A noted bon vivant, Warhol was known for throwing elaborate parties at his New York studio, The Factory, and was a regular at the famed Manhattan disco/nightclub, Studio 54, partying with glitterati pals like Halston, Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger.

His own path to stardom began with studying commercial art at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. After graduating in 1949, he moved to New York to embark on a career in magazine and advertising illustration. His work for Glamour magazine launched his career in September 1949. In the late ’50s, however, he turned his attention to painting. By the early ’60s, he was the toast of art and society with his pop-art paintings of celebrities and Campbell’s soup cans.

His own celebrity skyrocketed to pop icon status, where it remained after his death on Feb. 22, 1987, from an unexpected, sudden cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery.

“It’s probably a matter of opinion, but he could be the greatest American artist of the 20th century,” Kohn said.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

Formanek expects other Warhol works will be popping up around the Corridor. She’s been ni touch with the University of Iowa, Coe College and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, encouraging them to exhibit their Warhol pieces during the National Czech & Slovak Museum’s exhibition.

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“We’ve been working with them to coordinate a sort of ‘Where’s Warhol popping up?’” she said.

Here are several other related events:

• Chalk the Walk, Mount Vernon: This year’s festival, which ends at 6 p.m. today (5/8), features a collaborative recreation of 16 pieces from Warhol’s famed Campbell’s soup can series. For $10, visitors can pick up colored chalk sticks and add their artistry to the huge piece, which measures 30 feet by 50 feet, and will adorn First Street downtown.

• Members Only Exhibit Opening Party: 4 to 6 p.m. Friday (5/13), National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Admission: free, RVSP by Thursday at Ncsml.org/event/members-exhibit-opening-party or call Rachel Wobeter at (319) 362-8500, Ext. 207.

• Wonderful Warhol Family Art Workshop: #Selfie Portraits: 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday (5/14), museum. Create self-portraits in Warhol’s style, using guided drawing instead of photographs. No artistic experience required. Tickets: free, RSVP by Friday at Ncsml.org/event/wonderful-warhol-family-workshop-selfie-portraits

• Warhol Wednesdays: Punk Rock & Pop Art, 6 to 9 p.m. May 25, museum. Features gallery activities, vodka cocktails, and a 7 p.m. talk about punk rock and pop art by C. Ondine Chavoya, art history professor at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where his subjects include Pop Art and Andy Warhol. Tickets: $8 members, $10 public, Ncsml.org/event/warhol-wednesdays-punk-rock-pop-art

• The Dandy Andy Film Series: “The Wizard of Oz”: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 1, museum’s Hemphill Theater. Tickets: $5 ages 13 and older, $2 ages 12 and under, Ncsml.org/event/dandy-andy-film-series-wizard-oz

• Warholmania Party: 6 to 9 p.m. June 10, museum. Includes all exhibitions, Warhol-inspired hors d’oeuvres, interactive art stations, groovy games, “15 Minutes of Fame” costume contest, punk rock soundtrack by a local DJ, and vodka cocktails at the cash bar. Tickets: $15 to $20, Ncsml.org/event/warholmania-party

• Mad About Pop Art!: 7 to 9 p.m. June 15, museum. Guest artist Marti Dvorsky, owner of MAD Art Parties, will show participants how to paint a Warhol-inspired masterpiece. Suitable for all levels, including beginners. Museum will supply brushes, canvas, paints, easels and an instructor. Cost: $40, Ncsml.org/event/mad-pop-art

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• An Andy Warhol Birthday Celebration (Family Free Day): 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 6, museum. Honoring the artist’s 88th birthday, with Pop Art activities, games, food, live music and gallery access.

• Other events through Oct. 2: Ncsml.org/events

If you go

What: “Immortal: Warhol’s Last Works”

Where: National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids

When: Saturday, May 14, to Oct. 2, 2016

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $10 adults; $9 seniors; $5 active military, veterans and students; $3 ages 6 to 13; free ages 5 and under

Information: (319) 362-8500 or Ncsml.org/exhibits/andy-warhol

Biography: Warhol.org/collection/aboutandy/biography

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