Sometimes, the beauty is the bookends.
It would have been easy for the Ackland Art Museum to put its new exhibit of Andy Warhol Polaroids at the front of its central hall.
But by fixing Warhol’s snapshots as merely the middle portion of a three-part retrospective of portraiture, the Ackland has successfully channeled the energy surrounding Warhol’s big name into a broader analysis of the role of the individual in visual art.
The exhibits — “Big Shots,” “Counterlives” and “Enduring Likeness” — opened Friday, and though Warhol will likely remain the biggest draw for museum-goers, the two other exhibits are equally powerful.
For the Warhol collection, the Ackland partnered with the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC-Greensboro.
Each museum agreed on the essential composition of the exhibit, but the layout was left to the discretion of each separate institution.
It is up to the individual viewer to decide, but the Ackland largely succeeds in its decision to create a show that doesn’t rely on Warhol.
That is not to say that the Warhol part isn’t absolutely captivating — the collection of impromptu and planned Polaroids includes candid portraits of a variety of Warhol regulars and celebrities, arranged to excellent effect.
Grainy close-ups of unknown blonde women and forlorn Santa Clauses are sprinkled throughout the exhibit, bringing a sense of uncanny anonymity to the whole room.