Warhol's More Disturbing Works Go on View in Grand Rapids

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- There was a dark side to Andy Warhol, whose colorful images of famous people and everyday objects made him one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century.

Even before a woman shot and nearly killed him at his studio in 1968, Warhol was fascinated by violent death. It motivated him to create some of his most disturbing works, a number of which will be presented in a three-month exhibition of more than 100 of his prints and paintings at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

"People think of Warhol as the great Pop artist -- Campbell's soup, Marilyn Monroe and all of the excitement of fame -- but Warhol also, even from his very earliest years, did have a fascination with death and destruction, and the show will also reflect some of that," said Celeste Adams, the museum's director.

The exhibition "Rapid Exposure: Warhol in Series" opens March 14 and is expected to draw many first-time visitors to the museum's striking, new $75 million home in the heart of Michigan's second- largest city. The concrete-and-glass structure opened in October.

Warhol, who died in 1987 at age 58 following complications from gall bladder surgery, became a successful commercial artist in New York City during the 1950s before achieving worldwide fame in the 1960s. His platinum wigs and ever-present sunglasses made him an instantly recognizable figure.

His subjects generally came from photographs found in newspapers or other mass media. He often repeated the same images in variations of color and changes in form, then silkscreened them onto paper or canvas before completing the prints with additional color inks.

Most of the works will be borrowed from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, including some it has not lent out before. Others are on loan from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Grand Rapids museum also has some recently acquired Warhols of its own that will be displayed.

Visitors will see two or more prints or paintings of each subject grouped together. These portfolios will include famous images of Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Chinese leader Mao Zedong and the soup cans.

There also will be other, more ominous-sounding works on display, including "Electric Chair," "Skulls" and "Flash -- November 22, 1963," a portfolio of prints recalling the assassination of President Kennedy. …