Palmer Museum of Art

Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA



Andy Warhol: Cowboys and Indians


Andy Warhol (1928-1987), America's king of Pop Art, became famous during the 1960s for borrowing images from the mass media--from Campbell Soup can labels to movie idols--and refashioning them into monumental paintings and silkscreen prints. The artist's fascination with the famous and the infamous began when he was a working-class kid living in Pittsburgh who dreamed about movie stars and comic book heroes. After a successful career as a commercial artist in New York City, Andy Warhol shocked the art world by appropriating these popular advertising icons and presenting them as "art."

The Cowboys and Indians portfolio of ten prints features well-known figures: John Wayne and Teddy Roosevelt - -who are not so much "cowboys" as American heroes, as well as less familiar images of Native Americans. Geronimo faces the viewer with a mixture of rage, strength, and fear; while the anonymous Mother and Child reveals a quiet resilience in the face of encroaching authority. In Warhol's portfolio, Native Americans and their artifacts are shown as fragile, in danger of being forgotten, or in the case of Indian Head Nickel, of being perpetually stereotyped. Cowboys and Indians forces us to question our notions of the "hero" and "heroine" of the American West and to ponder their relationship to the voiceless heroes of our Native American past. (left: John Wayne, from Cowboys and Indians, 1986, Screen print, Private collection)

Also on view in the Museum's Pincus Gallery of Contemporary Art throughout the duration of the exhibition is Indian Country Today, a provocative mixed media painting from 1996 by Native American artist and Indian rights advocate Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Literally mapping the tensions between Native Americans and the dominant U.S. culture, Indian Country Today provides a trenchant commentary on the historical and ongoing relationship between "cowboys" and "Indians" in this country, offering an important countervoice to Warhol's Pop Art vision.

Read more about the the Museum's web article.


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For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/30/10

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