Warhol Mania in Montreal

Last weekend I popped over to Montreal with some friends to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and see the exhibition Warhol Mania.

The exhibition looked specifically at his advertising, illustration, and poster work, which spanned his entire career; from his early days illustrating fashion magazines to his later years producing iconic imagery for big brands like Absolut and Levi's.

In the early days of his career, illustration was incredibly important in the magazine and publishing industry. This exhibition had some examples of magazines where the fashion layouts were completed with illustrations of the clothing on models instead of photographs.

As photography became the standard for these magazines illustration took a back seat and many artists were left struggling to find work. Warhol took to showing his work in galleries and painting instead of illustrating. But he too experimented with photographic imagery, for example in his famous soup cans or pictured here with his cow print.
The MBAM even had a wall of the cow wallpaper in bright pink.

According to Warhol, the inspiration for the cow theme stemmed from art dealer Ivan Karp: "Another time he said, 'Why don't you paint some cows, they're so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts.' (Ivan talked like this.) I don't know how 'pastoral' he expected me to make them, but when he saw the huge cow heads — bright pink on a bright yellow background — that I was going to have made into rolls of wallpaper, he was shocked. But after a moment he exploded with: 'They're super-pastoral! They're ridiculous! They're blazingly bright and vulgar!' I mean, he loved those cows and for my next show we papered all the walls in the gallery with them." (source)

Much of the exhibition was focused on Warhol's poster art, which spanned his entire career. Examples were all commissions that began post-1964, when Warhol began to receive notoriety for his work.

Some of the posters advertised cultural events (example at left), while others were to promote musicians or consumer products.

The posters in many cases elevated everyday products to iconic status; the posters themselves blurring the lines between graphic design and fine art. This is apparent in particular in later posters where "Warhol" is scrawled across images as an artist signature. Warhol's poster art is colourful, sensational, and communicates his message in seconds.

"Warhol liked to use colours in a range of mauve, red and violet shades together with orange and yellow. Interestingly, three recent psychological studies of memory and colour show that these colours in particular were the ones that participants found easiest to memorize. Warhol had understood instinctively something that science would prove only years later." (From the MBAM website.)

Warhol's influence continues in advertising art.
Warhol suggested to the company distributing Absolut in the United States, that he could design a poster to reward the bar owners who promoted the Swedish product. It was also Warhol who suggested that a large number of gifted artists could each create their own portrait of the celebrated bottle; up to now, 350 different versions have been commissioned.

You can explore the complete Absolut artist collection online at Absolut's interactive website dedicated to archiving the project, here.

Read more:

About the MMFA (MBAM) 
Visit the Warhol Museum
Andy Warhol's Biography found at the Warhol Foundation

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