MISSOULA –“Two Multicolored Marilyns,” a late painting by renowned pop-artist Andy Warhol, is on public display at the University of Montana from July 22 to Dec. 1. Also featured is the monumental “Wishing to See the Night Sky,” a recent painting by resurgent Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
The artworks are on loan to the Montana Museum of Art & Culture as part of Visiting Masterpieces, MMAC’s ongoing program to highlight masterworks by important historic and contemporary artists in private collections. The paintings may be viewed in the Office of the President reception area located in Main Hall, which has public hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except during University holidays.
Perhaps best known for the “Campbell’s Soup Cans”and “Brillo Boxes” he created in the early ’60s, Warhol remains one of the most recognized American artists of the 20th century. In the weeks after Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962, Warhol began producing silkscreen portraits of her based on a publicity photograph from the film “Niagara.” He went on to produce other multiples like “Two Multicolored Marilyns” up to his death in 1987, depicting film stars and other celebrities, from Brigitte Bardot, Lana Turner and Elvis Presley to Queen Elizabeth II, Mao Tse Tung and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Scholars frequently describe Kusama’s creative practice of covering surfaces with meticulous, repetitive patterns as “obsessive.” “Wishing to See the Night Sky,” is a continuation of the large abstractions she first created after moving to New York City from her native Japan in the late ’50s. Kusama aptly referred to these early paintings as “infinity nets,” and they were a direct response to the prevailing abstract expressionism of the time. Her frequent practice of joining individual elements together into a continuous whole may evoke the forms she saw as a girl on her family’s seed farm and flower nursery.
Kusama is known for transcending minimalism and pop-art styles that surged in postwar American art. Critics also cite her psychiatric issues, which intensified upon her return to Japan in 1973, as central to her creative output. Indeed, the artist describes her art as a therapeutic outlet to cope with hallucinations that have haunted her since childhood. Kusama works primarily in a studio she built not far from the asylum where she has lived since her return to Japan.