New York

Andy Warhol

Leo Castelli Gallery

There once was a time when Andy Warhol was producing what was undoubtedly some of the most important art in New York. But that was quite a while ago. In recent years his shows have been increasingly disappointing and this latest is the most disappointing yet. It is beginning to look as though Warhol has hit the bottom. There is an awful desperation in his search for new images, and in his reuse of old ones. The “Myths” should have been a good series, but in the end it looked lazy; it looked as though gaps were being filled in. The “Reversals” had that same quality—little more than a footnote to earlier work. There was a new drama, certainly, but it was simply a drama of presentation. The work was handsome, but nothing more. And now, “Dollar Signs,” an overlarge reprise of what was essentially a one-line joke anyway.

The original dollar-bill paintings were funny. The joke was a cynical one, but it rang true. The repetition of the joke so many years later, this time brightly colored dollar signs on even more brightly colored grounds, can now raise only a hollow laugh or a shrug of indifference. It tells us nothing new, offers no food for eye or brain—we have all known for some time that there is often an equivalence between paintings and dollars. It is like a specially made in-joke for a crowd that is only now beginning to understand what Pop art is all about anyway, a gentle ribbing for those wonderful people who commission portraits, the wonderful people who think that supply-side economics and an increased military budget is wonderful too.

Warhol’s work has always been empty, but now it seems empty-headed. Its great strength was its ability to project nothing—at one time Warhol presented the void more successfully than Yves Klein ever did. But that nothingness has now developed into something banal, unfortunately proving right all those critics who always hated Pop art. It has become a manner, a clockwork winding down, soon to be forgotten.

Thomas Lawson