The Ukrainian Museum exhibits silkscreens from Warhol’s Endangered Species series

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             The Ukrainian Museum announced that it will open the exhibition Andy Warhol: Endangered Species to the public on Sunday, October 7, 2018. Commemorating the 90th anniversary of the birth of Andy Warhol (1928-1987), this is the first Warhol exhibition ever organized by a Ukrainian American organization. Endangered Species is on loan from the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. The exhibition at The Ukrainian Museum is co-curated by Alexander Motyl, Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University – Newark, NJ; Jaroslaw Leshko, Professor Emeritus of Art at Smith College in Northampton, MA; and Adam Harris, Ph.D., Joffa Kerr Chief Curator of Art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. James Warhola, an artist, writer, and book illustrator, and nephew of Andy Warhol, is a special contributor to the displays in the exhibition. Andy Warhol: Endangered Species will be on view through February 17, 2019.

The exhibition includes the eleven silkscreens in the Andy Warhol: Endangered Species series from 1983: Bighorn Ram, Black Rhinoceros, Grevy’s Zebra, Orangutan, San Francisco Silverspot, African Elephant, Bald Eagle, Siberian Tiger, Pine Barrens Tree Frog, and Giant Panda—as well as the silkscreen Sea Turtle (1985). An important component of the show at The Ukrainian Museum will be a section dedicated to Andy Warhol’s early years growing up in Pittsburgh. At the vanguard of the Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol is recognized as one of its greatest architects. But the influences from his youth, when he was immersed in the culture of his Carpatho-Ukrainian origins, impacted his evolution into a world-renowned artist. This exhibition not only features the still relevant Endangered Species series, but also looks at Andy’s heritage and other inspirations from his early years that spurred him along the path toward becoming one of the most influential American artists. Augmenting the Endangered Species exhibition are several early drawings by Andy Warhol, as well as a few personal artifacts and family photo prints.

                   “Andy Warhol has been studied as an artist, designer, writer, filmmaker, publisher, and even as a philosopher,” writes Alexander Motyl. “He’s been called a genius, an idiot savant, a provocateur, and a fraud. His admirers emphasize that he revolutionized art with his Brillo Boxes, silkscreens, flat surfaces, and bold use of color. His detractors claim that he cheapened art by commercializing it. But the trend-setting New York avant-garde artist was also, above all, a shy boy of Slavic peasant stock who was born and raised in a deeply religious and cloistered Eastern European community in Pittsburgh.”

               The silkscreen series in this exhibition, which calls attention to the plight of species that were all in danger of extinction in 1983, was the product of a proposal to Warhol by art dealers Ronald and Frayda Feldman. As he did with all his prolific and varied artistic pursuits, Warhol poured his energy and creativity into the Endangered Species silkscreens, producing an extraordinary group of works. Painting them in his characteristically vibrant colors, he brought his “portraits” of endangered animals to the status of his popular portraits of famous personalities. As Adam Harris states, “Andy Warhol’s images of soup cans and celebrities are familiar to most of us, but fewer people realize that he also created a stellar portfolio depicting endangered animals, raising awareness about wildlife in need of human protection in order to survive.” Warhol donated 100 of these prints to various conservation organizations for fundraising purposes.

              “Warhol’s career will always be defined by his seminal contribution to the avant-garde, as his vision guided and nurtured a generation of artists,” says Jaroslaw Leshko. “Among his vast repertory of topics was a keen interest in animals. Thus, his response to the Endangered Species project was instant and generous. It represents his most sustainable exploration of the animal theme. The title of the series defines its mission: to acknowledge and celebrate the viability and variety of animal life, and to explore and expose the vulnerability, indeed, frailty of its existence.”