Critics’ Picks

Andy Warhol, Yarn, 1983, acrylic and silk-screen ink on linen, 40 x 40".

Andy Warhol, Yarn, 1983, acrylic and silk-screen ink on linen, 40 x 40".


Andy Warhol

Milwaukee Art Museum
700 N. Art Museum Drive
September 26, 2009–January 3, 2010

Sotheby’s November 11 auction saw Andy Warhol’s 1962 work 200 One Dollar Bills fetch $43.7 million, just shy of a quarter million for each dollar-bill image squeegeed onto the canvas. The sale’s outcome may be an affirming nod to the artist’s uncanny celebration of capital even early in his career. However, the colossal works in “The Last Decade” impeccably underscore Warhol’s preoccupation with free enterprise and the business of art right to the very end. Warhol was not only prolific in his last decade, he was shrewd, negotiating abstract imagery, collaboration, and a return to painting by hand, always with an instinctive understanding of art’s corporate arrangements. The show itself is not teeming with examples from his widely popular “Rorschach,” “Camouflage,” or “Last Supper” series, though it brings together other impressive painting specimens wrought from the practices of mass production. His lesser-known “Yarn” paintings are surprisingly elegant, and their humorous spoof of Jackson Pollock is secondary only to their allover beauty. The several “Oxidation” works, the “Shadows,” and the single towering Rorschach, 1984, are alone worth a visit to yet another Warhol exhibition. Well exemplified by Arm and Hammer II, 1984—an uninspired collaboration with Basquiat—Warhol’s output in his last decade was driven by the force and potential of the free market yet remarkably played a critical role in the development of twentieth-century abstract painting.