The museum’s latest exhibition, ‘Andy Warhol: The Textiles’ celebrates the early commercial illustrative career of the influential Pop Artist. Head of Exhibitions, Dennis explains the importance of this little known part of the artist’s career on his impactful Pop Art.
Q. You have worked at the Fashion & Textile Museum for over 19 years, first as a Curator and now as Head of Exhibitions. Can you tell us a bit about your roles?
A. As Curator and subsequently Head of Exhibitions, I work with the Exhibitions team to develop and deliver exciting and innovative programming at the Fashion and Textile Museum. One of the nicest aspects of my role is being able to explore the work of designers and to tell stories of fashion and textiles that may not be told otherwise.
Q. ‘Andy Warhol: The Textiles’ explores Warhol’s early years as a commercial illustrator and graphic designer, focusing on his textile designs. What was the inspiration behind this exhibition?
A. We had worked with the guest curators and collectors on an earlier exhibition, ‘Artist Textiles’, that featured a few of the Warhol textiles that they had discovered. As they began to continue their research and to uncover and identify more of these early works featuring the illustrations of Warhol, we all felt that this would make an amazing exhibition highlighting a lesser known aspect of his career.
‘Understanding the foundations of an artist's career can shed insight into their work’
Q. Up until now, Warhol’s textiles have been virtually unrecorded. Why do you think it is important to highlight this lesser-known stage of his career?
A. Andy Warhol was an influential and successful commercial artist and graphic designer; many of the themes and approaches of these textiles would be become part of his processes in the development of his fine art - the repetitions, the exploration of everyday objects and images of pop culture, the mechanical processes of printing. Understanding the foundations of an artist's career can shed insight into their work.
Q. King & McGaw has supplied the museum with a selection of framed posters featuring Warhol’s commercial illustrations from the same period - including Ice Cream Dessert to Happy Bug Day. What role do these prints play in the exhibition?
A. The illustrations on display showcase Warhol's distinctive illustrative style, featuring the famous 'blotted ink' line. His commercial work was recognised and influenced the graphics of the era. It is these illustrations that form the basis for the textile works. Warhol's illustrations were sold to commercial textile manufacturers who produced the printed fabrics for both the wholesale and retail markets.
Q. Did Warhol's career as an illustrator and graphic designer inform his more recognisable Pop Art works?
A. I feel that the methods and imagery of Warhol's Pop Art career, particularly in Warhol's early transition into fine art, were informed by his work as a commercial artist. The early Pop Art also reflected an interest in popular culture and the world around the artist that we also see in his commercial work.
Q. Finally - what is your favourite piece in the exhibition and why?
A. It is hard to pick a favourite - so many great objects on display. Warhol's early work has an immediacy and a spontaneity that is refreshing. I do love the bugs and butterflies - and one feels that Warhol was partial to them as well - as they appear in variations throughout this period.
To celebrate the opening of their latest exhibition, ‘Andy Warhol: the Textiles’, we speak to Fashion Textile Museum‘s Dennis Nothdruft about the importance of Warhol’s early illustrations
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