The Evergreen State College Gallery is about to open an exhibition of more than 90 photographs by the late Andy Warhol. Most of them have never been shown before.
The show, “The Surface: On and Beneath,” features much of the college’s collection of black-and-white and Polaroid photos by the Pop Art master, known for his silk-screen paintings, his films and his personality.
The exhibition also will include a projector running Warhol’s “Screen Tests,” short video portraits on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and many of the college’s photos by Diane Arbus and other 20th-century photographers.
In 2010, the college received 153 photos from the Andy Warhol Collection, which has distributed more than 28,500 of Warhol’s photos to college and university galleries across the country, including those at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington State University in Pullman, and Gonzaga University in Spokane.
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“It’s sort of amazing that we got them,” Steve Davis, Evergreen’s interim gallery manager, said in a Monday interview at the gallery, where the show was being hung.
Since that time, fewer than 10 of the photos at Evergreen have been shown, he said.
He expects people to travel from at least as far as Seattle and Portland to see the exhibition, open through March 16. “This isn’t the kind of exhibition that pops up very often, even in big cities,” he said.
The Warhol photos in the show include Polaroids of a wide variety of subjects, including artist Keith Haring, singer Debbie Harry and jockey Willie Shoemaker along with an unidentified male model posed nude. Many of the larger black-and-white photos feature parties, though Warhol also did black-and-white portraits, still lifes and street scenes.
Unlike his silk screens of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup cans, Warhol’s photographs are little known.
“What we’re displaying is a different side to him,” Mariela Diaz, an Evergreen senior who’s helping with the exhibition, said. “Not a lot of people know about his photography.”
“Even though he did a ton of it,” Davis added.
The artist’s Wikipedia page devotes only a few sentences to photography, listing it under “Other Media” after lengthy entries about painting, film and even music. (The artist managed the Velvet Underground and used the band for multimedia projects.)
Warhol’s photos create a stark contrast to the other works in the show.
“His photography had little use for the boundaries of aesthetic, formal and technical rigor exemplified by the other artists in this exhibition,” the Evergreen Gallery website points out. “And yet, his seemingly unjaded gaze uncovered a raw and unapologetic glamour to late 20th-century American life.”
In terms of the show’s title, Warhol’s photos are on the surface, while the other works dive beneath.
The gallery page also includes Warhol’s oft-quoted statement about his own shallowness: “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”
There’s much behind this show, though. It is likely to raise the gallery’s profile regionally, and Davis hopes it also will draw attention to the college’s longtime dedication to photography and photographers. In addition to training photographers, the college maintains publicly available black-and-white and color darkrooms that are used by photographers throughout the region.
By comparison, the college’s photography collection “is almost a hidden asset,” he said. “It is just as important, and I want people to know about it. This is a collection of 20th-century photography, but it should be growing into a 21st-century collection, as well.”
For that to happen, the gallery needs money. “Surface” will include an opportunity for visitors to be photographed in a style evoking that of Warhol’s Polaroids, and the gallery is requesting donations for those who chose to have a photo made.
The gallery hasn’t officially been part of the budget for several years, Davis said, though administrators have found some funding for it each year. And there’s not much staff time devoted to it currently. Former director Ann Friedman recently retired.
So the work of mounting the exhibition has fallen to Davis, who also serves as coordinator of photography, media curator and adjunct faculty at the school, as well as a band of students, many of whom worked even during winter break.
Matting and framing the Warhol pieces, which had been stored in boxes, was much of the work, but the students, including Diaz, also did research, public relations and more.
Diaz said the work was an opportunity for her to get acquainted with Warhol. She hails from Honduras and had never heard of him before Davis asked her to help with the exhibition.
“Steve said, ‘We’re doing a Warhol show,’ and he was waiting for this excitement, and I said, ‘Sure, OK,’ ” she said, laughing. “It’s been really fun to work closely with his work and get to know him.”
The Surface: On and Beneath
The Evergreen State College Gallery presents an exhibition of Andy Warhol photographs, most never before exhibited, along with the work of other 20th-century photographers.
When: Opening reception 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18; exhibition open through March 16. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 12:30 to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Where: The Evergreen Gallery in the Daniel J. Evans Library, The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia
More information: evergreen.edu/gallery, 360-867-5125
Your photo in the exhibition: As part of the exhibit, visitors can sit for a photo that will be made to evoke Warhol’s Polaroids. They’ll get one copy to take home and the other will be displayed in the gallery. Donations are requested to benefit the gallery.
Also: The college is exhibiting copies of photographs Dorothea Lang shot in Washington state during the Depression in Galerie Fotoland on the library’s first floor.