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Pittsburgh Show Explores Early Career of Pop Artist Andy Warhol

Warhol with fellow students Pearlstein and Cantor

Warhol with fellow students Pearlstein and Cantor

The Andy Warhol Museum will present an exhibition entitled Pearlstein, Warhol, Cantor: From Pittsburgh to New York, opening May 30.

Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein and his future wife artist Dorothy Cantor were art students together at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and afterwards young, aspiring artists in New York City. This period of the late-1940s to early-1950s was one of close association between Warhol and Pearlstein as they were fellow students, roommates in New York, and enthusiastic artists working in commercial illustration. Cantor, one year behind them in school, was equally pursuing her work, but abandoned her practice to start a family with Pearlstein. This exhibition is the first to study this important early period for the three artists.

The exhibition sheds light on the student work of all three artists. For the first time, audiences can see these early assignments and discover how the artists found their way in the competitive art world. With Pittsburgh as the starting point for all three, the exhibit features a collection of rarely seen paintings and drawings from the student’s art class assignments

Pearlstein and Warhol graduated in 1949 and headed to New York City, where they both worked in graphic design. Warhol was immediately successful as a commercial illustrator, while Pearlstein struggled to hone a marketable style, and instead began drafting book covers and industrial manuals. Cantor struggled to find her way in the male dominated of New York art scene. She and Pearlstein married in the late 1950s and she left her art career to begin a family

Andy Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh graduating from Shenley High School there in 1945. He enrolled at Carnegie Institute of Technology that year and graduated in 1949 with a degree in commercial art. He first met Philip Pearlstein at Carnegie Tech in 1946 after Pearlstein returned to school there from military service. They became close friends and roommates. Pearlstein committed himself to experimenting with abstraction, a style he maintained until the late 1950s, when he progressed to figurative realism, his signature style. The upcoming exhibit includes Pearlstein’s most-recent paintings, a never before exhibited new series featuring nude models wearing antique animal masks.

Warhol began exhibiting his work during the 1950s. He gained fame for his whimsical ink drawings of shoe advertisements. Also, RCA Records hired Warhol to design album covers and promotional materials. Also in the early 50s Warhol began producing paintings using silk screen printing and to experiment with well-known cultural images such as Campbell Soup Cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley. His work was rejected by some in the art community, but became widely popular. The Warhol Museum exhibit shows the transition from student to struggling artist, to commercial success, to Pop Art’s most well-known and acclaimed artist.

The show runs from May 30 through September 6. For details see warhol.org or visitpittsburgh.com.

About the Author

In 2000, following a long and successful career as head of his own public relations agency, Jim became a freelance travel writer. In 2003 he was named travel editor at New York Trend. Jim travels widely in North America and Europe and has also visited in Asia, Africa, and Central America. He enjoys writing stories that bring alive his travel experience and entice the reader to visit new destinations. Jim is a member of the International Association of Black Travel Writers.

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