Published: December 28, 2004
On January 19, the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, University of Richmond Museums, will present the exhibition “Silent Spring: Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species and Vanishing Animals.” Featured will be Warhol’s 1983 portfolio of ten screen prints titled “Endangered Species,” and illustrations for Vanishing Animals, a 1986 book produced with Kurt Benirschke of the San Diego Zoo.
Warhol (American, 1928-1987) was a multimedia artist, best known for his contribution to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. His images had the subjects and style of advertisements, showing pro-ducts of consumer culture, such as Coca-Cola bottles or Campbell’s soup cans depicted with the silkscreen technique. But Warhol also tackled more serious topics, such as the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy and state-sanctioned executions, as well as endangered species, such as the work featured in this exhibition’s prints and book.
Art dealers Ronald and Frayda Feldman commissioned the “Endangered Species” portfolio after conversations they had with Warhol about ecological issues, including beach erosion. Warhol owned beachfront property on Long Island, which is now The Andy Warhol Preserve, a gift to The Nature Conservancy from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The portfolio includes images of the African elephant, the giant panda, and a San Francisco Silverspot butterfly, among others.
For the book Vanishing Animals (1986), Warhol created 16 prints (silkscreen with collage) of animals facing extinction. Each print is reproduced and placed next to chapters by Kurt Benirschke of the San Diego Zoo, who described each animal and possible reasons for their population declines. Included are chapters on the California Condor, the Galapagos Tortoise, the Komodo Monitor and the La Plata River Dolphin. This exhibition presents copies of the book as well as source material, including correspondence between Warhol and Benirschke.
The exhibition was organized and circulated by The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. The exhibition debuted in 2002 at the Warhol Museum as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s extremely influential book, Silent Spring, which was the first public call to arms concerning the dangers of pesticides. Published in 1962, this book is often credited as an inspiration for the global environmental movement, the founding of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and similar state agencies, and the annual Earth Day celebrations, and is largely responsible for the banning of extremely dangerous pesticides, such as DDT. Carson (American, 1907-1964) was a writer and scientist, born near Pittsburgh, which was also Warhol’s hometown. Her family home northeast of Pittsburgh is now the Rachel Carson Homestead, an educational facility open to the public.
Related programs include a lecture on Tuesday, January 18, 7 pm, titled “Interconnected Artistry: Comparisons of the Lives and Works of Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol,” and presented by Vivienne Shaffer, executive director, Rachel Carson Homestead Association, Springdale, Penn. From 8-9 pm, there will be an opening reception and preview of the exhibition.
A brown bag lunch series on Thursday, February 24, from noon to 1 pm will be presented by Maren Reiner, director of biological laboratories, University of Richmond. Drinks and cookies will be provided; participants should bring their own lunches.
Admission to the University of Richmond Museums and to the events mentioned above is free and open to the public.
The Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature is located in a separate wing of the Boatwright Memorial Library with its entrance on Richmond Way. For information, www.oncampus.richmond.edu or 804-287-6423.
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