Thursday, March 7, 2019

Andy Warhol at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Yours truly in front of Andy Warhol's colorful silk screen of art collector Ethel Scull. 
TD and I headed over to the Whitney in the Meatpacking District to see the Andy Warhol retrospective up until March 31. I think the new Whitney is great; I like it much better than the old Whitney uptown designed in the brutalist style by Marcel Breuer. The new version created by Renzo Piano is lofty and airy with super-high ceilings, and the gallery walls can be reconfigured for each show. The Warhol exhibition takes one whole floor and it's spaciously mounted.

I found the show to be very interesting and surprisingly serious. I thought it would be more colorful and jazzy and celebrity-driven since Andy was best know for his portraits of famous people - Liza! Liz! Farah Fawcett! But this show was toned down and quite rigorous as it explored Warhol as an artist. One also got the sense of what a hard worker Andy Warhol was as he produced art works, films, tv shows and Interview magazine.
I liked these delicate gold leaf shoe paintings --

I think I was expecting more razzmatazz because of The Andy Warhol Diaries, the very entertaining book that was published in 1989 following Warhol's unexpected death in 1987. Andy was out on the town socially in New York City practically every night and at the end of each night he dictated notes to a friend. He was a sharp observer and the book is an amusing account of New York in the '80s with appearances by Halston and Liza and Mikhail Baryshnikov, etc, etc. Andy talks about how hard he worked to get commissions for those expensive portraits which kept his whole operation running. I, incidentally, am a big fan of diaries - Leo Lerman's diaries called The Grand Surprise is wonderful, and Tina Brown's The Vanity Fair Diaries is wickedly humorous.

I personally did not know Andy Warhol as others in New York did though I did see him out at the night clubs Area and Palladium. The exhibition includes a big painting with "Paramount" splashed across it and notes that it may refer to Andy's boyfriend Jon Gould who worked at Paramount when Barry Diller was running the studio and hiring handsome men. When I worked for a small magazine company my boss was Katy Dobbs, whose best friend was Jon Gould. They had met at the summer Radcliffe Publishing Course. I remember seeing him a couple of times - a super-chic man. Jon Gould died of AIDS. Katy spoke at his funeral and said it was the hardest thing she ever did.

Then Andy passed away in 1987. That was a shock. He went into the hospital for a routine gall bladder operation and died the following morning.  It was one of those moments when you hear the news about someone and remember exactly where you are standing - I saw it plastered across The New York Post at the neighborhood corner magazine store. Besides being a prolific artist, he was a great connector of people in New York and it was a big loss for the city. Now with this exhibition at the Whitney, Andy was gotten his due.

One of the favorite things I saw at the museum was on another floor - this portrait of Andy Warhol on the right with his friend Ted Carey painted by Fairfield Porter from 1960. Ted Carey also died of AIDS.

I love the easy elegance of Fairfield Porter paintings and how this portrait captures a young Andy Warhol before all of his big success.


Unknown said...

Do you have Howard Moody's book? There's a story about Andy pp 118-120

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Abigail, I do not have that book - sounds interesting.