Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
The last time the Andy Warhol Museum examined the Pop artist’s Catholic upbringing was in 2007, with “Personal Jesus: The Religious Art of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol,” which explored religious iconography in both artists’ work.
But, The Warhol has never dedicated an entire exhibition solely to Warhol’s Catholicism. That is, until now, says José Carlos Diaz, chief curator at The Andy Warhol Museum.
“It was really important for us to really showcase the importance of Warhol’s Catholic upbringing and how it sort of represented visually through his art from childhood all the way through his death,” Diaz says.
The museum explores Warhol’s relationship with religion in its newest exhibition, “Andy Warhol: Revelation,” the first exhibition to comprehensively examine the pop artist’s complex Catholic faith in relation to his artistic production.
Running from Oct. 20 to February 16, 2020, the exhibit features more than 100 objects— archival materials, drawings, paintings, prints and film—that intimately look at this facet of Warhol’s life.
Andy Warhol was born into a devout Byzantine Catholic family, attending multiple weekly services at Saint John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church with his mother, Julia Warhola. Growing up in Greenfield—home to Pittsburgh’s Carpatho-Rusyn community—life revolved around the church.
As he became a celebrity artist, Warhol maintained some of his Catholic practices while his peers removed themselves from religion. However, as a queer man, Warhol may have felt a sense of fear and guilt from the Catholic Church, which prevented him from fully engaging in his faith.
He explored some of this tension through his art. Warhol reframed styles and symbols of Eastern and Western Catholic art history through the lens of Pop, creating iconic portraits of celebrities and appropriating Renaissance works, blurring the lines between kitsch, mundane and sacred high art.
Religious motifs also appear explicitly and metaphorically in his work. For example, the Pop artist depicted crosses and Christ directly, like Last Supper (1986), where he prints the Da Vinci classic in black and pink. A 1967 unfinished film reel depicting the setting sun—originally commissioned by the de Menil family and funded by the Roman Catholic Church—provides a more coded depiction of spirituality. According to Diaz, the exhibit presents this dichotomy, along with reimaginings of other works.
“I think there’s a lot of new arrangements of objects that people might have not put two and two together,” he says.
Diaz says the show also highlights Warhol’s ability to disseminate information.
“He’s able to take very strong visual language — whether it’s Marilyn Monroe, the Mona Lisa or da Vinci’s Last Supper — and present to the masses, and it’s just understood as being something very secular or very sacred.”
After opening at The Warhol, “Andy Warhol: Revelation” will travel to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky and be on view from April 3-August 21, 2020.
Diaz says the exhibit isn’t just for people of faith. It’s also for Warhol fans and scholars who want to get a deeper look into the Pop artist’s life and his art.
“This is specifically looking at Andy Warhol’s production of paintings and film and his art and then just putting into a religious context,” Diaz says. “So I’m hoping that people will come here and rethink Warhol, but that new scholarship will come from this and new interests will emerge.”