NiteTalk: Debbie Carfagno Pops Off About Warhol Et Al

Howdy Doody Warhol

This Second Saturday Miamians will get a chance to see some of history's most vivid works of art up close and very personal. The occasion? Adamar Fine Arts' wham-bam Pop art exhibit, "Warhol Et Al," which features everyone from Roy Lichtenstein and Alex Katz to Keith Haring. Most impressive perhaps will be the assembly of Andy Warhol "Myth" series works, which range in fame from Uncle Sam to Howdy Doody. Niteside got with former Warhol "print girl" Debbie Carfagno for some deep background.

Tell us a bit about "Warhol Et Al"
"Warhol Et Al" is a collection of important Warhol prints, edition pieces as well as unique, which we know will be of interest to the growing number of collectors and art enthusiasts in Miami. It will also showcase other master Pop artists who worked during the same time time as Warhol, such as Roy Lichtenstein,Tom Wesselmann, and Alex Katz. In addition, the show will feature three younger generation Pop artists, Keith Haring, Donald Sultan, and Opie, as well as work by Rupert Smith, Warhol's exclusive printer during the final decade of his life. We wanted to connect the beginnings of Pop Art with the ongoing love of the pop art aesthetic which has permeated so many aspects of our lives.

How difficult was it to arrange such an esteemed collection of works?
Adamar Gallery owner Tamar Erdberg has shown contemporary Pop art throughout her 25 continuous years in business in Miami. She's always dealt in blue chip art. Putting our contacts together we were able to compile an impressive exhibition from both private collections and other international sources. With the cultural surge throughout Miami during the past decade, she feels the time is right to offer collectors a new source. Art Basel, museum expansions, as well as private museums, have heightened the awareness and appreciation of the arts to new levels. The pure bright colors of Pop art are a wonderful compliment to the beautiful light that we enjoy daily. The clean clear forms of Pop Art and the positive upbeat depiction of everyday images mimic the Miami state of mind. Miami is ripe to become an international cultural center, and we hope collectors will look to our city as a source for all types of art.

Don't you have a personal history with Warhol? Yes, I worked with Rupert Smith, who was Warhol's print man from 1976 until he died in 1987. I am especially pleased to show some of  Rupert Smith's work so people will see how much of his talent contributed to the latter part of Warhol's legacy. I was lucky to have met him immediately after finishing my BFA degree at The School of Visual Arts in 1977. He had just begun to print for Andy, and I had concentrated on silkscreen printing in my own work. He needed help and I needed employment! So I began to produce the prints with him, and continued for the next eight years.

I also taught at the printshop at SVA where Keith Haring was a student, and later Rupert printed for him as well. It was an incredible time for me. One of my greatest memories was working with John Lennon on a portrait of Yoko Ono. So much of Warhol's process involved being an art director, so we had a lot of input into the choosing and development of the imagery.

Normally artists like to tightly control all that, but Warhol's genius relied on incorporating energy and ideas from those around him. If we were working on an image -- say Uncle Sam from the "Myth" series -- we would produce many color combinations until we came up with the perfect one which was chosen to be in the edition. The rejects were so beautiful, however, that we made them into their own edition, calling them trial proofs, each unique, but related. Warhol encouraged everyone's input, a concept that angered traditional artists at the time who felt that an artist should be slaving alone on his work, not relying on others for ideas and production in a factory atmosphere.

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