Andy Warhol: Revelation
Brooklyn Museum, New York
November 19, 2021 – June 19, 2022
Andy Warhol is one of the most celebrated and recognizable artists of all time, but until now the impact of his Catholic upbringing on his life and work has been a lesser-known facet of his widely studied career. Andy Warhol: Revelation explores the artist’s lifelong relationship with his faith, which inspired images that appeared frequently and overtly as part of his artistic practice. Warhol played with styles and symbolism from Eastern and Western Catholic art history, carefully reframing them within the context of Pop art and culture in his iconic portraits of celebrities, appropriated Renaissance masterpieces, and works that engage with questions of violence and power.
Throughout his life, Warhol continued to practice his faith while living unapologetically as an out gay man, along with his circle of social outcasts known for their creative and eccentric lifestyles, long before the mainstream LGBTQ+ liberation movement. Andy Warhol: Revelation will be on view from November 19, 2021, to June 19, 2022. The exhibition is organized by the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, and curated by José Carlos Diaz, Chief Curator. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Carmen Hermo, Associate Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. The Museum is the final destination for the exhibition, which originated at the Andy Warhol Museum and later traveled to the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky.
The Brooklyn presentation includes more than thirty additional items, including loans from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Baltimore Museum of Art, and Paul Warhola Family Collection as well as expanded selections from the Andy Warhol Museum collection such as Warhol’s iconic 1966 film The Chelsea Girls. “Warhol both flaunted and obscured his religion and his sexuality, and these dualities are explored in Revelation along with the push and pull between sincerity and superficiality, revealing and hiding, traditional and avant-garde,” says Hermo. “This exhibition gives viewers an opportunity to unpack some of those poignant – and very human- contradictions that functioned as one of the drivers of his art production.”
Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh to a devout family who worshiped in the Byzantine Catholic Church tradition, one of twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches. Warhol grew up attending weekly services with his mother, Julia, who had immigrated to the United States with her husband from present-day Slovakia in the early twentieth century. In the Warhola family’s Carpatho-Rusyn neighborhood of Ruska Dolina in Pittsburgh, a working-class immigrant enclave, life revolved around the church community, and the young artist was deeply impacted by this environment. Warhol continued to attend church in New York City, praying in Eastern, Roman, and Anglican Catholic spaces. Even after legendary parties at his studio, the Silver Factory, Warhol returned to the quiet home he shared with his mother, who prayed with him every morning before he left for another day of prolific, history-making work.
In an era that favored Abstract Expressionism, Warhol adopted an accessible visual language. He gained fame and notoriety for elevating mundane images from mass media to high art, using avant-garde approaches to examine traditional themes of power, desire, and the fragility of life. Revelation is organized by themes such as the role and representation of women, Renaissance themes and production models, the Catholic body and corporeality, family and diasporic traditions and beliefs, and imitations and duplications of Christ.
His monumental crosses, appropriations of Western masterpieces, and depictions of Christ directly reference biblical stories, but Warhol also created works encoded with depictions of spirituality and others that entangled queer desire with Catholic imagery. Newly discovered items such as the original popular encyclopedia source for his epic Last Supper series and ephemera from his Baptism to his audience with the pope to his funerals in New York and Pittsburgh provide an intimate look at Warhol’s creative process.
Obscure works such as an unfinished film reel from 1967 depicting the setting sun, commissioned by the de Menil family and funded by the Roman Catholic Church; late masterpieces like the pink Last Supper (1986); religious objects and ephemera; and drawings created by Warhol’s mother during the two decades she lived with her son in New York City, offer a nuanced perspective on the artist.