Spotlight: Andy Warhol’s Rarely Seen Early Drawings Take the Spotlight in a New Toronto Exhibition

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What You Need to Know: Currently on view, Caviar20 in Toronto presents “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62,” which will run through April 13, 2023. A leading pioneer of the Pop art movement, Warhol became internationally famous for his employment of the visual language of mass media and popular culture—creating now-iconic works like the “Campbell’s Soup Can” series (1961–62), (1962), and (1966). Though Warhol’s career gained widespread attention in the 1960s—and many of his most famous works came from that period—the artist’s practice began long before. In the decade preceding his mainstream success, Warhol was honing his individual style and artistic practice while simultaneously working as a commercial illustrator. His commercial drawings garnered a strong reputation and were largely sought, used as advertisements and other promotional material.  Though he did not see similar achievement with his personal artistic pursuits in the 1950s, the work he produced is integral to understanding the genesis of this world-famous artist. The exhibition at Caviar20 presents both commercial and independent work from this early part of his career.

Why We Like It: Warhol has been a subject of fascination for both art historians and art enthusiasts for over a half century, however, despite the wealth of scholarship and wide exhibition of his work, his early practice is often overlooked. Caviar20’s presentation of the artist’s drawings from 1952 through 1962 is the first to focus on this period in Canada and creates an opportunity for followers of Warhol to gain deeper insight into the development of his practice—before he became a global sensation. The subject matter between his commercial work and personal practice varies significantly from one another, with the later centering on portraiture, often erotic, of people within his circle. Warhol’s experiences within the gay community of the time served as a powerful source of inspiration, and frequently became the subject of his artistic focus in his earliest work. Within the exhibition, the juxtaposition of the artists playful commercial illustrations and straightforward personal drawings highlight the similarities of line and composition, while also drawing attention the growing range of his practice on the whole as he moved towards stardom.

According to the Gallery: “While Warhol’s signature Pop art is super iconic, ultra blue-chip, and ubiquitous, this first decade of creation remains a relatively unknown, almost undiscovered, but significant chapter of his oeuvre. During the 1950s, Warhol unabashedly emerged in the uptown gay scene both socially and professionally. Both his output as an artist and his exhibitions were inspired by gay men and were arguably catering to them (with cross-over aspirations). Warhol sketched many men in his milieu, both friends and lovers, enjoying the ease of the newly released ball-point pen. This profound and intimate period precedes Warhol’s art world superstardom when he became notoriously evasive about his persona and sexuality.”

See inside the exhibition below.

Installation view of "Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62" (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62” (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of "Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62" (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62” (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of "Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62" (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62” (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of "Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62" (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62” (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of "Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62" (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

Installation view of “Andy Warhol: The First Decade, New York City 1952–62” (2023). Courtesy of Caviar20, Toronto.

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