Exhibitions News Poland

Polish show digs into Andy Warhol’s Slovakian roots

Exhibition in Krakow puts Pop artist’s work in context with his central European background

"Andy Warhol: Contexts"at the International Cultural Centre, Krakow. Photo: Paweł Wodnicki

Andy Warhol supposedly once said, “I am from nowhere.” The king of Pop art is remembered today as an icon and champion of the American dream—a celebrity rejoicing in the company of stars, a lover of glitter and glamour. But he was also an introvert hiding behind a wig and a camera. In his art, he combined the sacred with the profane, raising repetitiveness and superficiality to the level of high art.

Warhol was born in Pittsburgh but his roots go back to what is today Slovakia. His parents emigrated to America from the Miková village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and arrived in the industrial belt of the US. It was there that Andy Warhola (he later dropped the final “a”) grew up, the youngest of three children. He was raised in the moral traditions of the Ruthenians, based on the Greek-Catholic religion. He spoke with his mother Julia, to whom he was particularly attached, in Slovak. In New York, where his career began, he led the life of a celebrity, but he shared his apartment (a multi-storey building) with his mother and her memories of the Old World.

The exhibition “Andy Warhol: Contexts” at the International Cultural Centre Gallery in Krakow attempts to capture this straddling of the fence between two worlds. The display guides the viewer through the successive stages of Warhol’s life and questions the influence of his Ruthenian origins on his art. An example of hunting for context is the cycle “Cowboys and Indians”—hung in the form of a golden iconostasis with a portrait of Marilyn Monroe. “Such a focus of interpretation of the artist’s achievements breaks away from the most popular pattern of reading Warhol in the context of Pop art and American culture,” say the curators, Natalia Żak and Helena Postawka-Lech. “We want, not so much to reject such a way of seeing the artist, but to supplement his image with the less-known motifs and insufficiently-explored leads.”

The exhibition includes 60 prints and three drawings, on loan from the private Zoya Museum in Slovakia, located on a vineyard in the village Modra, close to Bratislava. It is one of two major Warhol collections in Slovakia; the other is at the Múzeum moderného umenia Andy Warhola in Medzilaborce, not far from Miková.

“Andy Warhol: Contexts”, International Cultural Centre Gallery, Krakow, until 10 February 2013

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30 Jan 13
20:40 CET


During the Polish-Lithuanian period of Ukraine's historical past, Ukraininans called themselves Ruthenians (Rusyny), a term traced back to the Verangians (Vikings) who played a vital role in the founding of the pricipality of Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian) in the 9th century. In the late 19th and early 20th century, nationally conscious West Ukrainians began to call themselves "Ukrainians," a national name adopted by the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the east. It was felt that the traditional designation, Rusyn (Ruthenian) was too similar to Ruskyi (Russian). By adopting the name used by their compatriots in the Russian Empire, the West Ukrainians wished to stress their unity with them. A sizeable minority of Rusyn/Ukrainians continue to inhabit their ancestral lands around the town of Preshov in the Carpathian foothills. Although currently the region lies within the borders of Slovakia, historically it has been closely linked with Transcarpathian Ukraine.

21 Jan 13
15:10 CET


Andy spoke to his mother in "Rusyn" and not Slovak as you have stated in your article. Ukrainians were once known as Rusyn but gradually gravitated away from the term because they were being confused with 'Russians'. Today, there are several Rusyn "dialects" which are considered part of the modern Ukrainian language.

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