New Exhibit: 'Warhol and Cars'

November 01, 2012 | Pursuits

Andy Warhol’s Female Fashion Figure, 1950s

There’s more than a little irony underpinning “Warhol and Cars: American Icons,” opening this month at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale. It’s not that the exhibition’s spotlight on automobile imagery isn’t a welcome addition to examinations of Andy Warhol’s more familiar iconography. And his stylized takes on autos over the years—from yacht-like 1950s Cadillacs to a sporty 1979 BMW that he used as a literal canvas, painting right onto its hood and grill—ably dramatize their ability to embody the heart of modern Americana as much as his silk-screened Marilyn Monroes or Campbell’s soup cans. But here’s the curious subtext: Warhol never had a driver’s license. In fact, his sole attempt at learning to drive ended with his crashing his 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow on Manhattan’s Park Avenue. Warhol’s relationship with cars was strictly as a passenger, whether being chauffeured out to his Montauk estate or whisked to nightclub openings in the back of cabs. So what do we ultimately learn from this show? First, that for all of Warhol’s identification with the school of appropriation, he was a masterful draftsman; his advertising illustrations from the 1950s, before he reinvented himself as a Pop artist, remain enchanting. And beyond that? Was he a closet gearhead? Or was he a critic of consumerism, regarding car culture—and all it represents about America— with a gimlet eye? There’s more than enough grist on display for both conclusions, which may have been Warhol’s paradoxical point about autos after all. “Warhol and Cars: American Icons” opens November 10 at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-5500


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