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Warhol retrospective paints vivid history

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Running until March 31, “Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again” at the Whitney Museum of American Art is the first major retrospective of the iconic Pop artist’s work in the US since 1989 (two years after his untimely death in 1987, at the age of 58).

Organized by Donna De Salvo (the Whitney’s Senior Curator and Deputy Director for International Initiatives, who met Andy near the end of his life, in 1986), the show is also the largest single-artist exhibition at the museum’s new downtown location (at 99 Gansevoort Street), with more than 350 works that trace the trajectory of Warhol’s career on three different floors.

Prior to the official opening Nov. 6, the press, VIP guests, and members of the museum were invited to an invitation-only preview to celebrate Andy’s “inventive, influential, and important” work and to illuminate “the breadth, depth, and interconnectedness of the artist’s production.”

Attendees included representatives from the Warhola family - artist and illustrator James Warhola (Andy’s nephew), folk artist and silkscreener Madalen Warhola (Andy’s niece), photographer Abby Warhola (Madalen’s daughter), and art student Oonagh Carroll-Warhola (Jamie’s daughter) – as well as some long-time Warhol associates (Bob Colacello, Robert Heide, and Bibbe Hansen, to name a few).

The exhibition begins with examples of Warhol's paintings as a college student at Carnegie Tech in the 1940s (featuring Living Room, a view of the main room in the house where he grew up in Pittsburgh, from the Warhola Family Collection). It continues through his early years in New York City as a commercial artist and illustrator in the 1950s (the gold-leafed drawings of shoes and homoerotic images are among the highlights), to his world-famous Pop Art of the Sixties (including such iconic works as the Campbell’s Soup Cans, Brillo Boxes, Deaths and Disasters, Most Wanted, Marilyns, Maos, Elvises, and Self-Portraits. Also featured is a brightly-colored gallery-and-hallway installation of Cow Wallpaper and Flowers), and his lesser-known and less-appreciated pieces of the ‘70s and ‘80s (his 1984-85 collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat among them).

An installation on museum's also presents bits of personal memorabilia, issues of InterView magazine, and a selection of Factory films in a darkened screening room.

Together they offer a sweeping view of the four decades of Warhol’s career. The show as a whole evinces the consistency of what has come to be the signature Warhol style – bold experimentation, color, and design, an uncanny insight into the objects and subjects that capture the tenor and trends of each period in which he worked, and his prescient awareness of the coming digital age, the impact of the internet, and the love of selfies that characterize our era in the 21st century.   

The third floor offers a selection of Warhol’s groundbreaking productions of film, video, and TV from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, which, like his paintings and prints, incorporate the latest technology of their times. And the first floor lobby gallery contains a group of Andy’s portraits – his largest body of work – that range from the commissioned images of the rich and famous, to those of friends, family, and colleagues in the arts, created between 1968 and 1987, which display his recognition of the power of images and presage the widespread presence of portraits across today’s social-media platforms.

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive illustrated catalogue that incorporates the latest research into everything Warhol, so if you’re a fan, or would like to know more about the legendary artist, be sure not to miss this fabulous retrospective!

"Andy Warhol - From A to B and Back Again" is on exhibit through Sunday, March 31, at the Whitney Museum of American Art - 99 Gansevoort Street, NYC.