Warhol's Serious Side: See the Pop Maestro's Surprisingly Sober Still Lifes, In New York for the First Time

Andy Warhol's "Andy Warhol and Unidentified Women," 1982-87
(The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

WHAT: “Warhol: Confections & Confessions”

WHEN: Through May 5, Tuesday-Thursday 1pm-6pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-6pm

WHERE: Affirmation Arts, 523 West 37 St., New York

WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: Andy Warhol, the man, the myth, and the pop art legend, was also a fine art photographer? Pittsburg's Andy Warhol Museum is presenting an exhibition of 53 unique vintage silver gelatin prints that have never been seen outside the Pennsylvania museum before at Affirmation Arts. The show does away with the artist's flashiest trappings: viewers will get to see Warhol sans Factory-line produced pop imagery, celebrity paintings, or party Polaroids, in a show that consists solely of portraits, still lifes, and interiors.

His penchant for bananas is about the only Pop art tendency that carries over to these quiet, refined, and modest snapshots — the fruit recurs in photos of room service carts and hotel room breakfast trays. Otherwise, Warhol spends time carefully composing classically styled, front-lit studies of high-heeled shoes, eggbeaters, and the artist’s own book, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again),” in images titled “Still Life” (1976). Objects that would later be re-imagined in series of paintings appear in the sober photo “Hammer and Sickle” (1976), and in other images alongside Big Macs and Wonder Bread.

In the exhibition's most striking photographs, all titled “Mother and Child,” Warhol’s faith is put before the camera in the form of carefully posed mothers proudly holding their infants to their breast in the style of the archetypal Madonna and Child. The images are far from provocative, instead displaying sensitivity and elegance. Here, Warhol's photographs display a careful consideration of composition, demonstrating that his eye was equally drawn to bright, mass-produced imagery and muted scenes others might overlook.

To see photographs from the exhibition click the slide show