You gotta give Andy credit. He’s made quite a career out of the silk-screened poster—single handedly making the multi-million dollar screen print a reality. And with thousands of these posters available, is it any wonder you see them at just about every museum. The BYU art museum has two of the Marilyn Monroe prints. UMFA has at least one Warhol print. And take a trip to the NY galleries any time and you’ll find several for sale. If that’s not enough, the images are reprinted and ripped off so often that they’ve almost become a cliché. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Warhol fan and I get why he’s so important to art history. But sometimes the endless Warhol prints make me question the value of POP.
It was with this skepticism that I went to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to see Dream America: Prints by Andy Warhol. And OK, I admit it. It was better than I expected. This was a reminder that seeing the real thing, in person is always better than seeing reproductions. And seeing so many works by the same artists gives extra insight. Take the Marilyn Monroes. Sure you see this image everywhere, either the real thing in museums, or the endless reproductions. But I’ve never seen the entire series in one place. And that was cool. In fact several complete series are on display here. There are also lots of prints that I had never seen. Like the “shoes” and several of the tone-on-tone posters, both of which are worth a trip to the museum.
Getting up close to observe the workmanship is also fun. Warhol had some dang talented printers. The prints are created with such precision that their casual visual nature is misleading. And reproductions of the prints can’t capture the pure saturated colors nor the brilliance and sparkle of diamond dust.
Sometimes, Andy’s images seem trivial. But after seeing this show, I think it’s just because we’ve been so inundated with bad reproductions and rip offs. Go see the real thing and you might get a renewed appreciation for the master of POP.