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Bellagio Kindly Brought Warhol Out West, Go Pay Him A Visit

Where: 3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South [map], 89109
February 8, 2013 at 6:22 PM | by | ()

Andy Warhol has arrived Out West and brought some surprises. You know the soup cans, silk-screened Marilyn Monroe and the 15 minutes of fame quote, but a new exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art presents a compact overview that will prompt you to dig deeper into the world of Warhol.

Burdened as Pop-Art, this is popular art, in an exhibit with broad appeal for the casually curious or the art aficionado. This doesn’t feel like a flashy capitalization on the Warhol name, rather a muted compendium of work that will be new to most visitors.

Drawn from Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum collection, the scope is limited by the Gallery of Fine Art’s problematically limited space. Much of Warhol’s canvas work was oversized so it is the presentation of smaller work that creates the larger surprises. There are 60 paintings, prints, sculptures and film indicating the compulsive breadth of Warhol’s interests. A room is filled will his Silver Cloud floating pillows. You have a Brillo Box. Polaroids from the original Studio 54 scene, displayed in a city that erased its nightclub namesake last year.

Much of the focus is tilted toward the late 70s and 80s. Early Warhol’s can be worth millions and are littered across diverse collections so it makes sense the repository of items on offer is skewed to later, more available pieces. But, they are decades when the original "Shock of the New" had started to fade.

Warhol replicated the dominant artwork found on display in the working class. That art happened to be on the packaging of products such as soup cans and product boxes. You’ll encounter such iconography here.

And, naturally, more obvious and more glamorous icons. A “Double Elvis.” A silver Liz Taylor. But, most will puzzle over a Henry Geldzahler Polaroid from a confused era where people actually thought about Bianca Jagger in the same light as Mick Jagger. Kudos to the curators for not exorcising the obscure.

They really don't pander to overly obvious Warhol tropes. A nondescript room projects a series of Warhol's silent “screen tests.” They opt for the sequence of the brooding, sunglasses-hidden Billy Linich over the more obvious mugging, sunglasses-wearing Lou Reed. Linich went by Billy Name in the early Factory years and was the instigator behind the scene's serious silver obsession. You’ll see a good bit of silver on display. Mixed in with paint. In the floating clouds. And, Warhol's version of silver screen stars.

In a probable tribute to the umbrella name of the exhibit, pieces from his Cowboys and Indians series dominate one corner. It’s Warhol treading water in the year before his 1987 death.

More interesting, from the same year, are pieces mocking his own self-image referencing his “fright” and “shock” wig. Images created on a Polaroid format now equally gone as the creator himself.

Warhol liked money. He wasn’t shy about generating it or using it. So does Las Vegas. And, some of the artwork also seems chosen for that emphasis, like the Dollar Signs series. But, this is no gaudy exhibit. From the advertising, setting and interior it all feels respectful. They have a small, non-obtrusive gift shop, when they could have gone over the top. One of Warhol’s lesser known, 1962 dance steps paintings has been included in this exhibit. These days, you can buy the image on an $8,000 surfboard. Warhol’s world is bizarrely unique. And, often uniquely bizarre. Go check it out.

This writer lived in New York with a Warhol Superstar in the apartment upstairs and a Warhol collaborator across the hall. In Manhattan, Andy's legacy was pervasive and continual and we miss it. We welcome it’s arrival out west.

Warhol Out West resides at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art until October 27. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General Admission is $16, or $13 for Nevada residents. Locals night is every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will let you in for $8 with a Nevada ID.

(Photos: VegasChatter, Bellagio Gallery Of Fine Art, Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), Cowboys and Indians: Geronimo, 1986, Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS))

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