The Philip J. Steele Gallery in the lobby of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is currently showing Andy Warhol: Endangered Species, a group of ten silkscreen prints commissioned in 1983 by New York's Ronald Feldman Gallery. The year is significant because 1983 is just before Warhol broke out of the creative block he had suffered since 1968, when Valerie Solanis shot and critically wounded him.
Unfortunately, Warhol's injuries (coupled with some medical malpractice that was settled out of court) caused his premature death in 1987, leaving him with little time to capitalize on his renewed artistic vigor.
As a result, Endangered Species and the celebrity portraits, as well as other pieces from his dry-well period, are no more than perfunctory Warhols. They lack the passion of his masterpieces from the first part of his wildly successful career in the 1960s -- the soup cans, the Brillo boxes, the Marilyn Monroes -- or the intellectual appeal of his takeoffs on the old masters, which were done in the last years before his death.
But even halfhearted pieces by Warhol are better than the full-on work of nearly anyone else. It's no surprise that prints such as "Grevy's Zebra" (above) are meticulously executed, but it is surprising that Warhol, despite his flashy colors and his patented glamorizations, allows the sad fact that his animal subjects are heading for extinction to come through. The show runs through May 20.