I remember hearing that Andy Warhol had died; it was so fucking annoying. It was an unexpected death (actually, it turned out to be manslaughter) that really took the wind out of my sails (and put the wind back into his sales). Worse, I had an art-class pal named Jennifer who loved Warhol more than I did, and she hadn't heard he had died. "Hey," I said to her, gently, "did you hear about Andy Warhol?" I'll never forget her huge eyes going a notch huger as she asked, "No...what?" She cried when I told her, something Warhol himself would have been unlikely to do over just about anything. Even when he got shot he claims all he was thinking was how he was now sure he wasn't living life but was instead watching it all on TV.
"Andy Warhol's Dead" by Transvision Vamp, 1988
I know a lot of people who think Warhol was a douche with no talent. I am suspicious of those people; what does his personality have to do with how effective he was as an artist? It's somewhat material when it comes to discussing the content or success of his work, but immaterial when discussing the validity of his work. Plenty of artists were not wonderful, warm human beings. And most artists who did things in a new way had their haters to contend with (see above shooting reference).
I have no way of knowing for sure what was going on in Andy Warhol's head, but I don't believe it was empty, nor do I believe he was having a laugh at the world's expense. Everything I've seen of his suggests he was as thoughtful and subversive an artist as any others you'd care to name, even if his diaries are a study in superficiality. (But they're a study in superficiality, not simply superficial.)
I've never considered myself a big fan of Warhol's later work, but I definitely appreciated Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, at the Brooklyn Museum. Maybe because I had low expectations, I came away with a high appreciation for the depth, complexity and execution of his last works.
José & I at the Brooklyn Museum
I was disappointed that his iconic Polaroids were only represented by blow-ups in a room focused on one of his miserably uninteresting video projects (I'm a fan of his miserably interesting movies from the '60s, but the video stuff—with the exception of fun, short stuff like his TDK commercial for Japan—and his TV shows are painful with no pay-off), but I loved seeing a lot of his work with which I was completely unfamiliar as well as his massive and impressive "Last Supper".
The exhibit taught me that Warhol's most productive, prolific period was the period immediately preceding his death, a factoid that seems impossible considering the vast amount of work he produced at his (initial) peak in the '60s. But while I can live without his "Camouflage" stuff, at least some of his best final works were some of his best works.
Tons of images after the jump...