Thursday, June 17, 2010

Andy Warhol: The Last Decade @ The Brooklyn Museum

Self-Portrait, 1986

I saw Andy Warhol one time. I was a student at NYU in the 1970s, killing time between classes. Walking down University Place near 8th street, I looked up, and in a small jewelry shop, there he was, as iconic in life as his work had become iconic in the art world in the 1960s and 1970s.

Andy was blessed with well more than his 15 minutes of fame, escaping an assasination attempt by Valerie Solanas in 1968, that awful time of sporadic political violence and assasination, seeming like it could brim over into anarchy at times, at home in the US and war in Asia. Andy survived and lived on until February 22, 1987, when headlines announced  that  complications following an emergency gall bladder  operation led to his death from a coronary arrhythmia.  Andy Warhol:  The Last Decade, which opens to the public today at the Brooklyn Museum focuses on the the artist's return to painting and large, ambitious new works, both solo and in collaboration with other artists, as he explored new artistic media and themes in his final years of intensive work and continued growth.

Warhol's "Oxidized" ("piss") paintings, which involved the artist and his assistants urinating on  copper sheets, and his "Last Supper" which included numerous works on religious themes, some of them the largest on religious themes done in the US, give a sense of the artist as he attempted to return to new and different idea and techniques. Although not widely known, Warhol's Eastern rite Catholicism remained very strong throughout his life; he volunterred in homeless shelters and took great pride in his support of a nephew who entered the priesthood.

"The Last Supper (Christ 112 times)"

In 1984 and 1985, gallery owners Tony Shafrazi and Bruno Bischofberger brought Warhol together with Jean Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente in a number of collaborative works. 

The Origin of Cotton, Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat 1985


In this corner: Andy and Jean Michel

The Last Decade, which opens today and continues through September 12, 2010, includes some of his film and TV work, including Warhol's MTV pilot "15 Minutes of Fame" and other films by him of that era.  In his later years, his work explored religious themes, and he continued to work with new techniques and imagery,  for awhile influenced by Basquiat and Francesco Clemente and the work of younger artists. The inclusion of Brooklyn-born Basquiat in the Brooklyn-based show is just so right and a wonderful touch. We fondly remember the enormous Basquiat retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum a few years back, and last year, we saw the wonderful To Repel Ghosts ('Fantasme da scacciare') by Basquiat at The Memmo Foundation in Palazzo Ruspoli on Via Del Corso in Rome. That previous post here.   Although apparently extremely meaningul to both artists, this proved short lived . The two, one a grafitti artist who helped transform and became part of the "bull market in art in the 1980s, the other a commercial artist who mingled fine and commercial art to create the Pop Art of the 1960s and 1970s and who transformed art and helped to give New York its emerging identity as a world contemporary art capital, both appear to have influenced and shadowed each other. They both died within about a year and a half of each other, both in NYC.

While not a retrospective, it manages to cover many of the important milestones in Warhol's art and career, as the artist re-explored his use of certain images (commercial logos and images) in his later work. The exhibit offers a nice pastiche of the "Interview" magazine years and his curious flirtation with celebrity, glamour, and urban nightlife. Somewhere between the Hall and Oates and Diana Vreeland videos and the religious iconography, we see the dynamic expressed between the public and private Warhol.  Still, this look at the final chapter of Warhol's work shows a restless, sublimely creative man, who continued to take new risks and new roads throughout his life, as he evidently attempted to understand his art and himself.

The Brooklyn Museum link here

--Brooklyn Beat




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