The Pop and Purity of Nature

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Jamie Wyeth: The Headlands of Monhegan Island, 2015, Oil on canvas, 40 by 60 inches.
Jamie Wyeth: The Headlands of Monhegan Island, 2015, Oil on canvas, 40 by 60 inches.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art invites visitors to see the natural world through the eyes of two of America’s most prominent and distinctive artists: Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth. Their styles contrast radically, making their friendship – another focus of the exhibits, Warhol’s Nature and Jamie Wyeth – an unlikely one.

“Presenting these exhibitions concurrently provides viewers the chance to experience art by two contemporaries with distinct artistic styles and different worldviews. The exhibitions explore the lives and careers of Warhol and Wyeth and uncover a fascinating and lesser-known friendship between the artists,” says Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director.

Warhol rose to prominence during the 1960s with his provocative explorations of the relationship between art and advertising. His works are among the most collectible – and expensive – in the art world. But the exhibition’s title, Warhol’s Nature, reflects its unusual composition. Primarily known for his Pop art, Warhol often explored the natural world in innovative and surprising ways.

Warhol’s Nature features 87 paintings, prints, photographs and videos, as well as documents and personal objects from Warhol’s collection. Among them are some of his best-known works, including his famous Self-Portrait, Flowers, the interactive exhibit Silver Clouds and 10 images from his iconic Endangered Species series.

“Warhol’s engagement with nature is an important area of study and largely overlooked. We’re excited to present the untold story, uncovering layers of Pop to reveal an artist deeply interested in cultivating and preserving the nature outside and the nature within us all,” says Crystal Bridges Curator Chad Alligood.

Andy Warhol: The Picnic, 1959-1960, Ink, watercolor and gouache on paper, 28 1/2 by 22 1/2 inches.                                                                                         Collection Donald Rosenfeld, St. Louis, Missouri, © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Eric W. Baumgartner Photography. Photos courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American art.
Andy Warhol: The Picnic, 1959-1960, Ink, watercolor and gouache on paper, 28 1/2 by 22 1/2 inches. Collection Donald Rosenfeld, St. Louis, Missouri, © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Photo © Eric W. Baumgartner Photography. Photos courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American art.

Jamie Wyeth follows six decades of the contemporary realist painter’s career, beginning with some of his earliest childhood drawings. It features 90 works, including paintings, works on paper, illustrations and objects of “combined mediums” – Wyeth’s preferred term for the distinctive technique he brings to many of his compositions. It is the first major retrospective of Wyeth’s works.

“This body of work provides an intimate glimpse into the artist’s life and offers new insight into contemporary realism,” says Alligood. “Wyeth will be considered among the painters he emulated and admired, such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper, all of whom can be found in the Crystal Bridges collection.”

An artistic prodigy at an early age, Wyeth crossed paths with Warhol in New York City, where he often visited the city morgue to study anatomy. He regularly worked with Warhol at the Pop artist’s studio, The Factory, a frequent and fashionable hangout for intellectuals, celebrities and wealthy patrons.

During their time together at The Factory, Wyeth and Warhol exchanged self-portraits, which are on display at the museum. Wyeth is widely regarded as one of America’s finest portrait painters and brought his talents to bear on subjects such as Robert, Ted and President John F. Kennedy, as well as President Jimmy Carter and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Wyeth also excels as a mixed media artist, employing materials ranging from parachutes to cardboard. Along with portraits, he favors natural subjects, such as farm animals, several of which are featured in the exhibition.

In addition to the works, a Spotify playlist offers an exhibition soundtrack with songs by the Velvet Underground, the experimental rock band managed by Warhol, along with a mix of culturally relevant tunes from the 1960s and 1970s. For both exhibits, a selfie booth is available for visitors to fashion their image with the flash of Warhol or the mystery of Wyeth by recreating works in the exhibitions.

Both exhibitions are on view through Oct. 5. Admission is $8 for a combined ticket or free for museum members and youth ages 18 and under. Crystal Brides Museum is located in Bentonville, Ark. For more information, visit www.crystalbridges.org.

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