Aurora Garrison | November 2017
New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art is planning the city’s first encyclopedic retrospective of Andy Warhol in almost 30 years. The Whitney exhibition will highlight the overall depth of the artist’s production: from his beginnings as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s, to his iconic Pop artworks of the early 1960s, to the experimental work in film and other alternative mediums from the 1960s and ’70s, to his progressive use of readymade abstraction in the 1980s.
As we move more deeply into the 21st century, the appreciation of Warhol and his art increases. Warhol was creating Pop Art in 1960, before the term “pop art” was in the vernacular of artists and art critics. Warhol’s vision of his world as interpreted and created through his art is the catalyst for the Pop Art movement.
Warhol describes his Pop Art Manifesto in 1960 as his art reacted to and evolved from abstract expressionism of the 1950: “…the pop artist did images that anyone walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second – comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, Coke bottles – all the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried so hard not to notice at all.”
Instead of ignoring the images and cultural icons of the 1960’s, and denying their meaning in popular culture, Warhol seized these images and objects that were hiding in plain sight and forced through his Pop Art a reconsideration, a re-seeing, re-thinking, of our culture as manifested in the visual world. “Pop Art is a way of liking things,” Warhol said. The familiar is transformed and elevated to the unique and artistic through Pop Art. The discarded became the contemplated.
In 1998, Jane Daggett Dillenberger, art historian and curator, said And Warhol is “one of the greatest artists of the century.”
In the Whitney Retrospective, from our unique 21st century perspective, the show seeks to prove or disprove art historian Arthur Danto’s summary of oeuvre: “When the final multi-volume “popular history of art” is published, ours will be the Age of Warhol – an unlikely giant but a giant nonetheless.”
Indeed, art historians, critics and the public, are appreciating Warhol like never before with his artworks ever-increasing in value and reputation through auctions, exhibitions, and museum collections around the world.
John Richardson’s admonition on Andy Warhol’s art is, “never take Andy at face value.” By appropriating everyday consumer goods, and cultural images and claiming them as high art, Warhol raises controversial questions of originality and artistic merit that are still debated today. In the end, his art and art works are original and revolutionary because he conceived the idea of them and ultimately iconized the colorful and transitional culture of the late twentieth century.
After its run in New York, the Warhol retrospective will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in Spring 2019 and the Art Institute of Chicago in Fall 2019. The exhibition is orchestrated by Donna De Salvo, Senior Curator.