An exhibit featuring Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol might seem like polar opposite artists sharing a space, but that’s selling both of these geniuses short.
Rockwell is best known for a “wholesome” style that doesn’t have a hint of subversion. But a closer look at Rockwell’s photographic, stylized portrayals of American life reveal something a little sickeningly sweet: those smiles, the gun in the cops holster, the dirty nails of the speaker in Freedom of Speech or the father’s clenched fist in Freedom from Fear. Rockwell was an expert at capturing the cracks in the perfect facade, the plastic smiles, and worry.
Meanwhile Warhol is credited with upending artistic style and he’s probably not your first invite as a guest to your granny’s Thanksgiving dinner. But he was obsessed with Americana comforts: Campbell’s Soup, iconic performers, Coca Cola, camo, etc. Warhol was more in-your-face about the processes, colors, and layers applied to create perfection than Rockwell, though.
Putting the two contemporaries side-by-side is an inspired move that promises a revealing look at American culture, but also how individuals — you — feel about consuming it.
Inventing America: Rockwell and Warhol: June 10-Oct. 29. $6-$18. Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Rte. 183, Stockbridge. (413) 298-4100, ext. 221; nrm.org.