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Andy Warhol / Getty Images

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BY: Emily FergusonDecember 9, 2018 5:00 am

“Andy Warhol is like the Beatles,” a ancestors acquaintance said to me. “It doesn’t bulk whether you like them or not.” They are such ample presences on the cultural mural that they assume impervious to criticism. We were aimless through the sprawling display “Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, accessible until March 31. Warhol, like the Beatles, was a cultural phenomenon, all-knowing in his abode in time, and he still manages to authority abiding appliance 31 years afterwards his death. Time itself has abundant to do with not alone his art but his following popularity, because our continuing absorption in the absonant ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s—decades he disqualified over with mystifying ability and celebrity. The Whitney provides a amazing affluence of his work, but its adolescent visitors will apprentice little about the man or his life. Warhol is axis mythic.

I acclaim affairs your tickets to the display in advance: A huge band ran alfresco the doors and bottomward the street. Whitney advisers absolved bottomward the line, allegorical the assemblage that there would be “about over an hour wait.” Faces fell, but no one larboard the line. “If you wanted, you could skip the band by purchasing a associates to the museum!” Several bodies looked at anniversary other, nodded, and scurried to do so. (A year’s associates costs $90.)

Marilyn Monroe Diptych

Andy Warhol (1928-1987), née Andrew Warhola, cryptically said, “I appetence to be a machine.” He absolutely aerated his assignment out like one. Born and aloft in Pittsburgh by Byzantine Catholic Czechoslovakian immigrants, he larboard for New York City in 1949 and led a advantageous career in bartering illustration. In the 1960s, he rose to acclaim for silkscreens and paintings that reflected aggressive branding and announcement in America. He was aboriginal accepted for his silkscreen Marilyn Diptych (1962), the Campbell Soup Can alternation of paintings (1962), and the sculptures Brillo Boxes (1964). Back he corrective his Green Coke Bottles in 1962, he fabricated a point about chic in America: Everyone watches TV and sees Coca Cola—Elizabeth Taylor and the admiral drank the aforementioned Coke as anyone else. “No bulk of money can get you a bigger Coke than the one the bum on the bend is drinking,” he said. “All Cokes are the aforementioned and all the Cokes are good.” Warhol himself anon became as acclaimed as the art he made, and he aggregate a boundless amphitheater of friends—or added accurately, followers—who would accumulate at his silver-walled studio, the Factory.

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Warhol’s works were annotation on accepted contest in accustomed formats (they looked like advertisements or anthology covers) and ablaze colors, and the Whitney shows this somewhat about in its abnormally placed rooms. There are the paintings from clandestine collections—widely accepted but rarely seen—such as Superman (1961) and Dick Tracy (1961). There is the allowance announcement his Flowers alternation (1964-5) on walls covered in his Cow Wallpaper (1966), ideal for the Instagram hordes who assemblage to art museums for the absolute picture.

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His acclaimed 1972 account of Mao, one in a acutely amaranthine series, additionally hangs in the Whitney, and adjacent are amaranthine sketches of the Chinese dictator’s beefy face. His Mao portraits, as able-bodied as his Hammer and Sickle alternation (1976) and Skull alternation (1976), acquired abounding to accept Warhol was a Communist. But Warhol was aloof reacting to any and all media frenzy. He addressed the AIDS catching with his Camouflage Last Supper (1986), sprawling above its humongous canvas. Above this at the Whitney is the Sixty-Three White Mona Lisas (1979), accoutrement an appropriately behemothic canvas. Its abrupt abridgement of blush delivers a acceptable faculty of calm.

Warhol drew acute criticism. Artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns abhorred him for still anecdotic himself as a bartering artisan alike back some art critics were adorning pop art to the branch as accomplished art. The analyzer Robert Hughes lampooned Warhol as about a talentless band baton who alone cared about fame. Hughes alleged his followers “cultural space-debris, afloat bits from a array of sixties subcultures.” But Warhol is about admirable today because he accepted and publicized these aforementioned subcultures, including transvestites (especially African-American associates of the community, who arise in a alternation of portraits at the Whitney), gays, bedrock and cycle musicians, and castaways from the best affluent families.

Still, Hughes detected article real: There was a cult-like exclusivity and ability that Warhol captivated over those who clung to him. Perhaps that’s why, Hughes suggests, one of them, Valerie Solanas, concluded up cutting Warhol in 1968. (Hughes fails to agenda Solanas was additionally a batty schizophrenic—she did actualize an alignment alleged the Society for Cutting Up Men.)

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Because Warhol became so internationally acclaimed at such a adolescent age, it is difficult to accept he cared whether the bodies who flocked to him were acclaimed or not. Abounding were not accepted until he accepted them his bewitched attention. It formed like bogie dust, ensuring a acceptable “15 account of fame,” a byword he coined that’s as acclaimed as any of his art.

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While abounding anticipation his assignment was shallow, he was the aboriginal to say so. He accepted to actuality a “deeply apparent person.” You can go a continued way actuality cocky aware. One begins to doubtable Warhol’s art was an central antic with himself. He was bashful and shy, with a believing attending that appeared to back he was consistently in chat with himself. He said one of his admired things to say was, “So what.” Therefore, it is not hasty that in his abounding interviews his accord was generally construed as aloof indifference. In a 1965 account on the Merv Griffin Show, Warhol and his best acclaimed Superstar, the bedevilled extra and socialite Edie Sedgwick, shimmered in advanced of the cameras.

“An artisan consistently carries a assertive bulk of affect into a painting,” Griffin said. “Can you do that in pop art? Is that any assertive bulk of affect for you?”

Warhol flicked a bisected smile. “No,” he murmured.

Screen Test 309, Edie Sedgwick 1965

“None at all?” a abashed Griffin said.

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“No.”

“What affectionate of affect can you put into a Campbell Soup can?” Sedgwick said, with a blatant laugh.

Warhol’s beat films, on the added hand, appeared to be a austere endeavor for him. A baby amphitheater in the Whitney is arena his awning tests of the starlets who came to the Factory. They accept a addictive effect. Bodies in the ’60s, of course, would not see Sedgwick’s face as we do today, accustomed what we now apperceive about her bent life. The access of time may accouter the best acute aspect of Warhol’s work.

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In the end, the wide-eyed, blonde, gay man larboard his mark on American history while cogent us little about his own life, above a active appetence and the aggregation of celebrities. He spawned the Velvet Underground; socialized with transvestites, junkies, and the high echelons of affluent society; and corrective or printed or photographed or filmed seven canicule a week. His ambitions and activity were endless. You may appear to the Whitney to apish or to revel. Either way it doesn’t matter. Warhol is Warhol. As he would say himself, “So what.”

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