Andy Warhol more than exceeded his famous dictum about fame. Now an excellent exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum focuses on his last decade, meaning, work of this art-world genius in late mid-career. The bewigged Warhol predicted he would not survive the hospital when he went in for a routine operation, and he was right. By a fluke, (neglect, or malpractice) he died in 1987 at age 58. As you make it through the 5th floor galleries past “Last Supper,” a 10 x 32 foot canvas with renderings of Leonardo's masterpiece and motorcycles suggesting religious-cum-erotic themes, or “The Origins of Cotton,” one of several collaborations with Clemente and Basquiat, you are reminded of his versatility beyond the much lauded Pop period, dazzled by the sheer brilliance of his vision. At the time, he seemed the enemy of abstract expressionism, and in his last decade, a practitioner of it, in his way.
The exhibition catalogue features a fine essay by the show's organizer, Joseph D. Ketner, explaining how peeing on a canvas treated with metallic paint turned into a method of abstraction utilized in the series “Oxidation Painting.” A wise inclusion is Julian Schnabel's 1989 take on the Shadow paintings so monumentally displayed at Dia: Beacon with only a few on display in Brooklyn: “These paintings hover as the shadow of life's edge. . . . whereas the subject of many of Andy's paintings is a record of events in life, these are a record of the act of painting.” Also included in the catalogue, in an essay by Bruno Bischofberger, “Collaborations: Reflections on My Experiences with Basquiat, Clemente, and Warhol,” is a Basquiat portrait of Andy Warhol as a banana, brown spots included.
On Wednesday night a few who knew him gathered at the New York Public Library for a panel moderated by Factory historian Steven Watson: John Wilcock, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, Gretchen Berg, and surprise guest Bibbe Hansen. Joseph “Little Joey” Freeman spoke up from the audience. The occasion was the re-publication of The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol by John Wilcock. Known for the documentary, Guest of Cindy Sherman, the editor of the reissue, Christopher Trela said he was inspired to publish it after picking up an original copy of this interview collection with photos by Shunk-Kender. The book's title comes from Paul Morrissey, and becomes a sly comment on its contents: interviews with Factory regulars and other Warhol associates: Charles Henri Ford, Naomi Levine, Marisol, Henry Geldzahler, Sam Green, Ultra Violet, Lou Reed and Nico, among them, by Village Voice founding editor and Interview Magazine founding co-publisher John Wilcock.
Much was said of Warhol as a catalyst for the art in others, his intense work ethic, but no one knew for sure what Warhol was like in bed. The sexiest image: Warhol in come stained jockeys greeting Little Joey, asking, does he need anything when he showed up at his townhouse. In true Warhol spirit, Trela created a marketing device offering a banana shaped bookmark to lure book buyers who would also have the panel members sign. When the books sold out, fans queued up, uttering the line of the night: “Please sign my banana.”