Whitney Museum retrospective spans Andy Warhol's career

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Sandy Kenyon reports on the Andy Warhol retrospective at the Whitney Museum.

He was born Andy Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but he came to New York City as a young man and re-invented himself as Andy Warhol before becoming one of the most famous artists who ever lived.

A new retrospective at the Whitney Museum brings together more than 350 works spanning his entire career.

Even more than 30 years after his death, Warhol has never seemed so alive.

"He was an immense innovator, and that innovation moves from the 20th century into the 21st century," curator Donna De Salvo said.

Our memories are made of his: The way Warhol used our icons is now so familiar, it's hard to understand how radical his ideas once were.

"Some people hated him for it," De Salvo said. "Some people said he killed painting. What he does is, he introduces a whole new way of making art."

Portraits of Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and so many others began with a Polaroid instant photo taken by Warhol, who then layered on paint using silk screens to make a final work of art.

"And so much of Warhol's work, I think, really anticipates a digital era that we're in now," De Salvo said.

Working decades before the invention of social media, Warhol was the first to predict that in the future, "everyone would be famous for 15 minutes."

"Warhol understood in a magical way in a way of mixing things up, you create yourself as a brand," said De Salvo, who worked with the artist briefly towards the end of his life.

She said that for such a public figure -- a guy who spent so much time in discos and at parties -- Warhol was surprisingly shy. But you'd never know it from this exuberant show.

To spend time at this retrospective is to marvel at how often Warhol found so much meaning in what is commonplace. But as much as he accomplished, his death at the age of 58 still left so much promise unfulfilled.

"It would've been fabulous to see what he would've done with these digital platforms," De Salvo said. "Whatever he did would've felt original and different."

"Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again" runs through March 31 at The Whitney Museum of American Art. For more information, visit Whitney.org/Exhibitions/AndyWarhol.

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