Most exhibits of Andy Warhol’s art are bold and aggressive, vivid with skulls, guns, and uncomfortable Marilyn Monroe grins. The quieter work of his later life, following the failed assassination attempt and closing of the silver-lined Factory, doesn’t get as much attention (or merchandising). Andy Warhol: The Last Decade at the Brooklyn Museum confines itself to just those final years, and in doing so cuts out a lot of what people come to expect from a Warhol exhibit, but also reveals a side of Warhol’s art that is not often explored.
We visited the exhibit on the free First Saturday event at the Brooklyn Museum, which meant it was kind of a madhouse. Your aesthetics are challenged almost immediately by the “Oxidation” paintings, where Warhol used one of his new brush-free methods by painting with metallic copper paint and urine. Soon after are “Shadow” paintings made by dragging a mop coated in black paint over color.
Yes, Marilyn Monroe is there after all, just in negative. There are some odd pieces that don’t seem to fit, like a portrait of unraveled yarn Warhol did for a yarn company. There are also paintings of Camouflage, which I didn’t find that intriguing, but they’re well-executed. I did like the one of Warhol’s face emerging from the Camouflage, as him and the military aren’t exactly grouped together in my head, and it was both amusing and a little shocking to see them together.
The best pieces in the exhibit are massive, and I wonder how and where these gigantic things are stored. For example, the Last Supper work seen above is actually two of those together. I would have to use the panoramic feature on my camera and press myself against the opposite wall to get a picture of the whole thing. There was an equally huge work with just black and yellow prints of Jesus’ face. The massive scale comes off the best with Warhol’s collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat. His iconography mixing with the young painter’s heavy style is really cool together, and I’m surprised I’ve never come across them before.
The exhibit ends with footage from Andy Warhol’s memorial service. Just outside of the viewing room is that confrontational portrait at the beginning of the post. In doing some research, I found that these pieces in Andy Warhol: The Last Decade are only one percent of what he actually produced in his final years. I imagine he would have continued to be prolific if he hadn’t died from complications from gallbladder surgery. Even if all the work in the exhibit isn’t as strong as his earlier periods, it’s still tantalizing enough to imagine where he would have gone from there.