In Arts + Entertainment

A New Retrospective Is Bringing Andy Warhol Into The Digital Age

The exhibit re-examines the relevance of the artist’s body of work in the 21st Century.

“Perhaps more than any artist before or since, Andy Warhol understood America’s defining twin desires for innovation and conformity, public visibility and absolute privacy.”

This quote from curator and Warhol authority Donna De Salvo is the central theme of Andy Warhol – From A To B And Back Again, currently showing at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Following its NYC run, the exhibition will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The exhibition is home to 350 works ranging from Warhol’s earliest pieces in the ’50s through to some of his lesser-known projects in the ’80s. It’s the widest-ranging showcase of its kind, and the most expansive dedication to a single artist the Whitney’s downtown location has executed.

andy warhol exhibition

Installation view of Andy Warhol –From A to B and Back Again. Credit: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 12, 2018-March 31, 2019)

Warhol was an artist whose work always had a sense of duality.

“He transformed these contradictory impulses into a completely original art that, I believe, has profoundly influenced how we see and think about the world now,” says De Salvo.

Andy Warhol – From A To B And Back Again is the first Warhol exhibition organised by a US museum since 1989. It seeks to re-examine the artist’s body of work under the lens of the digital age and to introduce “a Warhol for the 21st century”.

andy warhol exhibition

Andy Warhol (1928–1987), Marilyn Diptych, 1962. Acrylic, silkscreen ink, and graphite on linen, two panels: 80 7/8 x 114 in. (205.4 x 289.6 cm) overall. Tate, London; purchase 1980 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

Enter, and you’ll be greeted by a selection of Warhol’s portraits on the first floor. The silkscreen portraits include Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli and Truman Capote – all in Warhol’s signature pop art treatment. More interested in the artist’s film work? Travel up a couple of floors to level three and you’ll find everything from commercials to full-length movies.

Many of the themes Warhol explored over the course of his artistic career are still relevant today. One such example is the artist’s iconic diptych technique of producing identical images in different colour palettes.

“He pioneered the use of an industrial silkscreen process as a painterly brush to repeat images ‘identically’, creating seemingly endless variations that call the very value of our cultural icons into question.

andy warhol exhibition

Installation view of Andy Warhol –From A to B and Back Again. Credit: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 12, 2018-March 31, 2019)

“His repetitions, distortions, camouflaging, incongruous colour, and recycling of his own imagery anticipated the most profound effects and issues of our current digital age, when we no longer know which images to trust.”

One of the most iconic examples of this is Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych. A canvas is filled with near-identical images of Monroe coated in bright shades of yellow, blue and pink. The second shows black and white prints of the late actress, gradually fading into nothingness.

For art-enthusiasts and curious beginners alike, re-examining Warhol’s work – his silkscreen prints in particular, which cause us to question which image is the original – in the age of filtered posts and photoshopped portraits is a captivating experience.

andy warhol exhibition

Installation view of Andy Warhol –From A to B and Back Again. Credit: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 12, 2018-March 31, 2019

“From the 1950s until his death, Warhol challenged our fundamental beliefs, particularly our faith in images,” says De Salvo.

“Looking in this exhibition at the full sweep of his career makes it clear that Warhol was not just a 20st Century titan but a seer of the 21st century as well.”

Andy Warhol – From A To B And Back Again: Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC: until March 31; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: May 8 – September 2; Art Institute of Chicago: October 20 – January 26, 2020.

(Lead image: Installation view of Andy Warhol –From A to B and Back Again (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 12, 2018-March 31, 2019)

Published 08 March, 2019