Western Pop: Andy Warhol & Billy Schenck
Opening June 20, 2023
Two Iconic Pop Artists
“We are thrilled to unveil these two contemporary Western art exhibitions together and offer our visitors a fresh perspective to experience, explore and compare the nostalgia of the American West through the eyes of two iconic American Pop artists,” said Tricia Loscher, Assistant Director – Collections, Exhibitions, and Research, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. “Andy Warhol and Billy Schenck’s work showcases the diversity of perspectives and the richness of the American West’s cultural heritage.”
Andy Warhol: Cowboys & Indians is a collection of 14 screen prints highlighting classic and popular Western archetypes and calling attention to the cultural significance of cowboys and Native Americans in the American West. Warhol used photographs as source material to distill an ocean of imagery into a series that explores the myths and nostalgia of the American West. Cowboys & Indians was Warhol’s last major project before he passed away in 1987. Only 250 copies of the portfolio were printed.
Billy Schenck: Myth of the West features 29 works, including oil on canvas and serigraphs, by the cowboy artist himself. Schenk, a genuine cowboy who was inspired by Warhol, based his paintings on Hollywood interpretations of a mythic “Old West” before transitioning to his own versions of a mythic “New West” in the 1980s. Schenck’s “New West” satirized Hollywood icons, urban cowboys, and women with guns, allowing him to explore social and political commentary that could lead to universal truths and lies.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987) democratized fine art in the 1960s. Using commercial printing techniques, Warhol elevated the iconography of everyday objects and advertising images. This 1986 portfolio—consisting of 10 screenprints—represents an important milestone in both the artist’s late career and in the history of contemporary Western art. Warhol distilled an ocean of imagery into a series that explores the myth of the American West and American nostalgia for the Old West. He used photographs as source materials, which were themselves replications of real people and historical artifacts. In doing so, Warhol joined a movement during the 1980s that mainstreamed the history and myths of the American West.
By the 1980s, BILLY SCHENCK began replacing those traditional Hollywood fantasies with his own versions of a mythic New West. Schenck’s New West satirized Hollywood icons, urban cowboys, and women with guns. In the 1990s, Schenck developed what he called “a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of Western landscapes and the traditions of people living in this arid, remote, and epic land.” As Schenck photographed his own contemporary rodeo and ranch life, the artist internalized a double standard between myth and history in the American West that grew so deep he embodied the notion in his Double Standard Ranch, near Santa Fe, New Mexico.