The BYU Musem of Art’s new exhibit “Think Flat,” featuring original art from Andy Warhol and Takashi Murakami, explores the relationships between the influence of fame and the power of an image.
Jeff Lambson, curator of contemporary art at the museum, describes the link between the pop culture art of Warhol and the abstract cartoons of Murakami.
“The difference between Murakami and Warhol is that in Warhol’s time, people were becoming more socially empowered because of the rise of the middle class and modernism, leading to the civil rights and women’s empowerment movements,” Lambson said. “Warhol’s art is about anybody becoming famous. Murakami’s art says, ‘Here we are, now what do we do with it?'”
The artists’ works are bright and bold, reflecting the culture of their times. Consumerism, pop art and the idea of fame fueled many of Warhol’s famous pieces, such as the iconic Marilyn Monroe collection. In a group of 10 paintings, Warhol portrays Monroe’s beauty and fame in the way the colors clash or harmonize. Warhol worked with the new exciting idea that less fortunate people could buy and experience the same products as the rich and famous because of consumerism. This led to Warhol’s dream of everyone having 15 minutes of fame.
“The idea of everyone having 15 minutes of fame is happening now,” Lambson said. “With the rise of mass media, 40, 50 years later, we live in Warhol’s future. It’s happening through blogs, reality television, Facebook and social media. Murakami’s work comes with a warning: If you stray too far into the fantasy world, you can become disconnected from reality, and then you lose sight of what’s important.”
Angela Fisher, a museum education intern, described the meaning behind Andy Warhol’s art and how it connects to our day.
“There are huge connections in Warhol’s art with the modern-day world in social media,” Fisher said. “Warhol portrays Marilyn Monroe different ways, and we portray ourselves in different lights through social media. There is so much power in an image, and that lasting power is longer than our 15 minutes of fame.”
The exhibit should not only allow viewers to enjoy the unique artwork but also help viewers to “think flat,” to consider how people sometimes get caught up in their own fantasy worlds in social and mass media when they should be focusing more on real-life relationships.
Melissa Richardson, a psychology major from Fayetteville, Ark., said that as a viewer at the exhibit, she liked Warhol’s “A Shot of Marilyn Monroe.”
“All the different colors create different feelings,” Richardson said. “She doesn’t look as seductive in some of them, and it really humanizes her. The bright colors show the power of her fame, and the dull colors show that she is still human with problems of her own.”