Works by Billy Schenck and Andy Warhol blend pop and western art styles.
No one does western pop art like Billy Schenck. Drawing inspiration from Western films and landscape photography, Schenck paints a portrait of the West through a Pop art lens. A retrospective of his 50-year career, titled Western myth, is on display at the Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA) alongside Andy Warhol: Cowboys and Indians.
Billy Schenck, The Last Sunset (2016), oil on canvas, 40 x 40 in., courtesy of the artist
Billy Schenck, Geoff Stared (2011), oil on canvas, 40 x 40 in., courtesy of the artist
Founder of the Western Pop movement, Schenck combines the influences of his many artist-heroes of the Pop movement, including Roy Lichtenstein, in his exploration of all aspects of powerful Western iconography. In his early work, Schenck found inspiration and sources for images in Western paintings and film stills, but later moved permanently to the West.
Being a real cowboy himself, with a world champion belt buckle at his waist, Schenck increasingly turned to his personal photographs as material. With his characteristic reductive style, Schenck transformed traditional Western imagery from realistic replica for detail into streamlined, well-defined, streamlined areas of color and stylized patterns.
Billy Schenck, No problem, (2016), oil on canvas, 40 ⅛ x 70 ⅜ in., courtesy of the artist
“Schenck didn’t invent Pop Art,” said SUMA executive director Jessica Kinsey. “But he continues the movement through Western Pop and remains authentic to who he is: a cowboy.”
Alongside Schenck’s work is Warhol’s last major project before his death in 1987, Cowboys and Indians. The serigraph suite pays homage to the archetypal symbols of a popular fictionalized version of the American West. Works include portraits of Annie Oakley, John Wayne, Sitting Bull, and iconic images like nickel and kachina buffalo dolls. Now iconic, the Cowboys and Indians is a time capsule of 1980s America, when we had a cowboy in the White House.
Billy Schenck in his home studio in October 2021.
The two complementary exhibitions were organized by the Briscoe Western Art Museum. They will be on display at SUMA from January 19 to March 19, 2022. SUMA is located on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. The museum is free and open to the public Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information about the exhibit and associated programs is available at go.suu.edu/westernpop.
Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA)
Cedar City, Utah, 84720
Cover photo: Billy Schenck; Many, many miles; (2012); oil on canvas; 60 x 46 in; courtesy of the artist
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