A group of art enthusiasts enjoyed a preview of a pop art exhibit Thursday night that might be the first of its magnitude in Statesboro.
Supporters of the Averitt Center for the Arts greeted each other, socialized during an al fresco dinner and viewed a selection of silkscreen prints by renowned pop culture artist Andy Warhol.
The exhibit, owned by Wes and Missy Cochran, is on loan to the Averitt Center for display. Thursday’s gala offered supporters of the center the chance to enjoy the exhibit before it opens to the public, said Tim Chapman, director of the Averitt Center.
“We’re very excited,” he said about the exhibit. “It’s a coup for Statesboro to have this body of work. Andy Warhol created pop art and really helped create pop culture in America.”
The exhibit includes silkscreen images of American icons John Wayne, Annie Oakley, Mickey Mouse and Mick Jagger. There are silkscreen images of Geronimo, Plains Indian kachina dolls, and a wooden nickel. Upstairs in the gallery were more examples of Warhol’s work, including images of Neil Armstrong on the moon.
“We love Andy,” said Steve Jones as he browsed among the displayed artwork. “Always have.”
Ellen Boyles said: “I’m very excited to have an artist like Andy Warhol showing here in Statesboro.”
Art lovers mingled before dinner, some dressed as Warhol or characters he portrayed. Mary Margaret Jones was among the small crowd viewing the display.
“I’m a big supporter of the art center,” she said. “Also, I’m a former high school art teacher. This is an amazing exhibit for Statesboro.”
Chapman said he was pleased with the turnout for the exhibit preview and is excited about more local art enthusiasts visiting the gallery.
“The colors, the famous people – this is simply amazing,” he said. “Andy Warhol’s work will be revered by artists for centuries to come.”
According to history1900s.about.com, Warhol was “one of the most important artists of pop art, which became extremely popular in the second half of the twentieth century.”
He is best remembered for paintings of Campbell's soup cans, having painted pictures of all 32 varieties after a friend suggested he paint something he liked.
Warhol loved movies and collected celebrity memorabilia, especially autographed photos, which often served as inspiration for his artwork.
Pop art began in England in the mid-1950s and consisted of realistic renditions of popular, everyday items, according to the website.
Warhol almost died in 1968 when a disgruntled actress, Valerie Solanas, shot him in the chest. Less than 30 minutes later, Warhol was pronounced clinically dead, but a doctor opened his chest cavity and massaged his heart, saving his life.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Warhol continued to paint. He also published a magazine called “Interview” as well as several books about himself and pop art. He even dabbled in television and produced several movies, including “Sleep,” more than five hours showing John Giorno, his close friend at the time, sleeping.
He died in 1987 from suspected complications following gall bladder surgery, at age 58.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.