A visit to the Whitney Museum of American Art for a conversation with curator Donna De Salvo about the landmark exhibition “Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again,” which is on view through March 31.
Next we'll travel downtown to the Whitney Museum of American Art, for a look at the exhibition 'Andy Warhol-From A to B and Back Again.'
Few American artists are as instantly recognizable as Warhol.
Through his carefully cultivated persona and willingness to experiment, he understood the growing power of images in contemporary life and helped to expand the role of the artist in society.
With more than 350 works of art on view -- many assembled together for the first time -- the exhibition builds on a wealth of new materials, research and scholarship that has emerged since the artist's untimely death in 1987.
It reveals new complexities about the Warhol we think we know.
Curator Donna De Salvo is our guide to this landmark exhibition.
I think that one of the things that often is missed with Warhol is understanding where he came from and where he was going after the 1960s.
So this exhibition really takes his foundational, the period of time he spent as a commercial illustrator working in New York, and his experiences of that time, and how much of what he was doing in the 1950s, and particularly working with different reproductive techniques within the magazine format, was instructive for him.
And then, you know, as much as the show of course highlights many of the great works from the 1960s, I've felt that many exhibitions had not made sense of what he did after that period, so this exhibition really presents the work as a continuum, looks at his career more holistically, with examples from really every aspect of his production: of course paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photography, but also his forays into publishing with Interview Magazine, the books that he published, as well as his video work that he was doing.
I mean, no exhibition could capture it all.
But I would say one of the key things of this show is really following Warhol's process as a maker of art.
Some of the themes of the exhibition are looking at the duality of... or the multiplicity of meaning that he can bring to a single image, that the images that he would choose, that he selects, can be read at face value, and then they have many other meanings to them, which I think you can see more clearly by looking at the work of the 1950s.
So the 50s is positioned as a very foundational decade in this exhibition.
Warhol gets a job as the sole illustrator for the I.
Miller Shoe company from '55 to '57, where he is drawing these incredible shoes.
So his public side is to do the shoes.
The private side, and these are works that were not shown at all, are of these very erotic drawings of men's feet.
So here's this duality.
When you look at the breadth of his career and the just extraordinary number of images he made, you really begin to see how he really destabilizes the image or questions what it is we're actually looking at, which is something that's accomplished really through the photo silk screen.
Once he brings the silkscreen and the photograph and painting together, you know, you have an image that is articulated through the very means through which it's distributed in the culture.
So that's really the radical paradigm shift in Warhol's work, when he gets to the silkscreen in 1962.
Now normally that's used within a commercial setting to create things that are identical.
But he interprets them in ways that are, are actually much more nuanced.
So you see differences from one image to the next in one painting.
So, if you think about it, he takes a technique that really should be about conformity and he uses it in a very innovative way.
Warhol emerged in a post-war culture where there was this feeling of optimism, aspiration.
America as a world leader.
Capitalism certainly as the sort of greatest expression let's say after the war.
His commentary seems to be a kind of celebration of consumerism.
But I think there's something, also a dark side of Warhol, that is somewhat about the dangers of consumption.
And I think the ambiguity of it is where its power lies, like with any great work of art.
Warhol's very topical, he chooses images that really have a currency in the world and in, especially in American culture, which is a little bit the ad man part of him.
You know, Mona Lisa which he makes when the painting comes from the Louvre to the National Gallery and then the Met.
So it's in the news a lot.
You know, it's called '30 Are Better Than One,' a little bit of a kind of dig, if you will, at our obsession with the original.
He was commissioned to do a painting of the most famous man in the world.
And it was Albert Einstein was who was suggested.
But Nixon had gone to China, so it was a very important moment.
And Mao Zedong's image was in newspapers, on the news.
It's an epic year: the first time a sitting president goes to the People's Republic of China.
So Warhol decides to do Mao.
And of course, you know, he's a bit irreverent because he gives Mao, you know, eye shadow and lipstick and, you know, makes Mao into an American version of a celebrity.
In the last room of the exhibition, which also includes his 'Camouflage Last Supper' and two Rorschach paintings, suggests, you know, within the '79 to '86 period, just some of the ideas that Warhol was exploring, and then, sadly, he dies in February of 1987.
His premature death at the age of 58, you know, leaves us in a place of not knowing where he might have gone--we have what we have... I don't think Warhol ever, you know, went out of style to an extent.
But there's certainly now a far more receptive audience to his work.
And, you know, he was prescient in certainly understanding the ubiquitous nature of images and that we live in an image world, and we live in one now, you know, on steroids.
I mean to think about social media or Instagram, Warhol was just ahead of the curve.
So I'd like to invite everyone to come to the Whitney and visit the exhibition 'Andy Warhol-From A to B and Back Again.'
And, you know, really learn something about Andy Warhol.
And even ask yourself why, why is this artist as important as he is?
Because any exhibition should invite questioning, as much as confirm, hopefully, some answers.