Andy Warhol earned a lasting reputation as a cultural icon, but there's a lot more to his story. Uncovering the missing pieces is the Whitney Museum's goal with Andy Warhol--From A to B and Back Again, the first U.S. retrospective of the pop artist's work since 1989. Curated by Donna de Salvo, the exhibit goes beyond Warhol's well-known 1960s images to look at his entire career, examining each period through the context of his life.
The exhibition begins with Warhol's commercial and private projects throughout the 1950s, showing how it laid the groundwork for his defining motifs, and ends with work from his final years before his death in 1987, which was not his most critically acclaimed but addressed the Cold War and the AIDS crisis. In between are returns to studio techniques like painting and drawing, experimental and diaristic content following his near-fatal shooting in 1968, and of course, plenty of portraits, of stars including Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minnelli, and Muhammad Ali. Divided chronologically, the show explores how Warhol's creative evolution aligns with his biography, from his beginnings in commercial art to his resilience in tragedy to his life's abrupt end.
'Marilyn Diptych,' 1962
It's immediately clear from the exhibit that there's so much more to Warhol than his celebrated soup cans and celebrity portraits. While those invaluably propelled pop art forward and created meaningful commentary on the consumerist, celebrity-obsessed society which was developing in front of the artist's eyes, his later work provided further progression, bringing together commentary on current events, influence from historical masters like Leonardo da Vinci, and collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, both of whom had taken influence from his previous work. Perhaps if Warhol were alive longer, the world would have understood his 1980s oeuvre better as well as seen even further progression on his revolutionary work.
'Camouflage Last Supper,' 1986
After its time at the Whitney, Andy Warhol--From A to B and Back Again will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, bringing an examination of an American icon around the country. The exhibit seems likely to initially attract viewers with its nostalgia and pop culture appeal, but its true impact lies in its holistic picture of Warhol's career, helping the audience to understand how his artwork came to be and ponder what could have been.