Machine at Work

Warhol’s Polaroids
September 10 - November 25

“I want to be a machine.” Andy Warhol famously said these words in 1963, and Polaroid cameras emerged as the ideal technology to realize this dream. One of the most recognizable American artists of the 20th century, Warhol gained notoriety for his iconic images of banal commodities like Campbell’s soup and glamorous portraits of celebrities. Polaroid cameras, the first to instantly print photographs, enabled Warhol to automate his artistic practice. Equipped with a Polaroid Big Shot or SX-70, Warhol became a portable photo booth in 1970s and ‘80s documenting not only the prosperous and famous, but the common and anonymous. Often taking dozens of pictures in a single studio session, the artist’s Polaroid photographs were the groundwork for his vibrant silkscreen portraits, and poetic gestures in their own right.

Featuring selections from the collection of the Mishkin Gallery at Baruch College, Machine at Work: Warhol’s Polaroids reveals a lesser-known aspect of the artist’s remarkable history. Warhol’s Polaroid pictures take center stage in this exhibition, which is divided into three chapters that focus on: the Polaroid camera’s technology and history, the artist’s obsession with female luminaries, as well as the everyday, overlooked, and banal. In doing so, this exhibition seeks to emphasize the role of the Polaroid photograph in the artist’s career. If Warhol transformed American culture, then the Polaroid camera was the technology that revolutionized his art.

Exhibition curators: Jessica Choisez, Leanne Manna, Elizabeth Pamblanco, Cassandra Post, James Smolic, Reba Weatherford, William Wiseheart, and Zoe Zucco.

This exhibition is curated by students in St. John's University's M.A. Museum Administration and Public History programs. 

Image: Andy Warhol, Dolly Parton, 1985, Polacolor ER, 4” x 3 3/8”. Collection of Baruch College, The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program Award, 2008. © 2020 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.