Andy Warhol at the Whitney: Why it Matters

by | Dec 21, 2018 | Thought Patterns, Uncategorized

If you haven’t seen Andy Warhol at the Whitney Museum yet, make sure you get there before it ends on March 31. You have plenty of time, so no excuses. Andy Warhol–From A to B and Back Again includes over 350 works, and yes, the soup cans are present and accounted for. It is, according to the museum, the “first major reassessment of his work in thirty years.”

Andy Warhol at the Whitney

Andy Warhol at the Whitney

I think it’s safe to assume that most people in the world are familiar with Andy’s work. I mean, you’d really have to be living under a rock not to be. Soup cans and coke bottles and portraits of Liz, Marilyn, Liza–icons all, captured by an icon. These images are some of the most recognizable in pop culture. Of course, just because they are universally known, does not mean they are universally loved. I know many people who don’t LOVE Andy Warhol. And, I know some people who actively dislike Andy Warhol. “I mean, it’s just a bunch of Brillo boxes,” was a thing I heard at the exhibit (standing in front of the Brillo boxes). To each his own, especially when it comes to art. Full disclosure: I love the guy. He’s a disruptor. A troublemaker. I love troublemakers.

Andy Warhol at the Whitney

Portraits by Andy Warhol at the Whitney

I’m not going to give you a screed on Warhol’s contribution to art and culture. Like the saying goes, I’m no art critic but I know what I like. But whether you love him or hate him, this exhibit is worth seeing. Why? Well for one thing, it’s rare to see this volume of work in one place, spanning so much time. The scale of the exhibit is staggering. It includes everything from his earliest commercial work, Interview magazine, film and television projects, early silk screen experiments, private sketches, and ephemera, to collaborative work with Jean-Michel Basquiat, and a huge collection of commissioned portraits. It’s exhausting to view, just imagine what it must have been like inside his head.

Andy Warhol at the Whitney

Mao Tse Tung, Andy Warhol

If you think you know Warhol, seeing the work all together like this will give you a new appreciation. If you dislike Warhol, you may find yourself inspired by the sheer voluminous output. And if you are one of those people who thinks that all he did was reproduce soup can labels, you may find yourself reevaluating your opinion. Photographs of the silkscreened flowers or the gigantic Mao Tse Tung don’t show you how “painterly” these works are. Getting up close to the lovely and delicate shoe portraits is a rare treat. (I COVET the Diana Vreeland shoe drawing.) The line drawings, some never before seen by the public, are touching and intimate.

Andy Warhol at the Whitney

Diana Vreeland’s shoe, Andy Warhol

It’s true, no matter how you feel about him, that Andy Warhol had a huge impact on art, celebrity, society, music, print media–the list goes on and on. And for that reason alone, the exhibit is a must. But it is the personal moments that most resonate–a simple self-portrait, the portrait of his mother, Julia Warhola, the Time Capsule, the special projects and collaborations that give you a small window into the artist’s interior life. Those are the moments most valuable to me. Go. Meet the artist. He’s an interesting fellow.

But those soup cans, though.

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