Artist Gehres Emulates Andy Warhol in His Work

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 22, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Artist Gehres Emulates Andy Warhol in His Work

Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

From the T-shirt graphics he has created for fashion designer Anna Sui to the illustrations he has completed for The New Yorker, Pittsburgh artist Paul LeRoy Gehres -- aka Lucky LeRoy, Lonesome LeRoy and "LeRoy, King of Art," as he calls himself -- is Pittsburgh's latest Pop Art export, and quite possibly its most campy artist ever.

To say Gehres makes art in the vein of Pittsburgh native son Andy Warhol (1928-87) is an understatement. Gehres, who has created pop art out of subjects from cultural icons like Anna Nicole Smith to local native Stephen Foster, does more than just draw like Warhol. He makes screen prints and paintings like Warhol and even dresses a little off-kilter like the famous artist. And, like Warhol, he is a sponge when it comes to pop culture. He soaks it all in, from the weekly tabloid press to the daily dose of Fox's TMZ -- only to regurgitate it all in the form of silk-screen art, drawings, paintings and quilts.

Now, Pittsburghers have a chance to see what Gehres has been up to with "Paid Sick Days," his second solo show at Panza Gallery in Millvale. Gehres has covered nearly every square inch of wall space, even the ceilings, of the two downstairs galleries, with his works.

"It takes a while to absorb all of this," says gallery owner Mark Panza, standing in the middle of it. "I'm still finding things, and the show has been up now for over a week."

Gehres likens his fascination with Warhol, and his ersatz work in that vein, as something akin to that of an Elvis impersonator. "Anybody could wear a wig and impersonate Andy Warhol," says Gehres, who admits he has done so, even while making prints atop the famous artist's grave. But, he says, "So many people have done it. I'm just doing it in that way, like an Elvis impersonator."

Pointing to his painting of Anna Nicole Smith as a perfect example, Gehres says, "She wanted to be Marilyn Monroe, and I want to be Andy Warhol."

Also like Warhol, who painted his portrait of Marilyn Monroe shortly after her death on Aug. 5, 1962, Gehres painted Smith on Valentine's Day 2007, six days after Smith had died of an accidental drug overdose.

"I painted it on Valentine's Day, when there was an ice storm," Gehres recalls. "But even though there was this horrible ice storm, I thought, 'I have to paint Anna Nicole today!'"

In the gallery, his painting is surrounded by a blue vinyl tarp stenciled with tiny, multiple images of famed fashion designer Estee Lauder -- an homage, says the artist, to the many paintings of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that Warhol painted.

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