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Andy Warhol Retrospective at MOCA Los Angeles

Andy Warhol Retrospective is the first comprehensive exhibition of the work of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) to be presented in Los Angeles in over 30 years. The only American venue for the retrospective, MOCA will bring together more than 200 paintings, drawings, and sculptures by the influential 20th-century artist, forming one of the most extensive surveys of Warhol's work ever mounted in the United States.

This exhibition opens May 25, 2002 at The Museum of Contemporary Art and remains on view through August 18, 2002. The exhibition will occupy the entire 25,000 square feet gallery space of the MOCA at California Plaza building.

Andy Warhol Retrospective spans the legendary artist's entire career, from the early 1940s through 1986, and features key early works from such landmark series as Campbell's Soup Cans, Marilyn, Jackie, Mao, Elvis, Flowers, Disaster, and Self-Portraits. Organized by Heiner Bastian for the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the exhibition then traveled to the Tate Modern in London. MOCA's presentation will feature key additional loans secured only for Los Angeles.

The exhibition also includes rare examples of Warhol's early drawings dating back to the 1940s, as well as the first groundbreaking hand-painted, black-and-white works depicting common objects of the early 1960s. Of particular focus are the 1960s Disaster paintings -- including iconic themes of Suicide, Electric Chair, and Car Crash -- and early groups of work seldom seen together, such as the Most Wanted Men. A selection of Andy Warhol's last major series of paintings, based on Leonardo da Vinci's 15th century painting of Christ and his Apostles at the Last Supper, will be included in the exhibition. The monumental paintings based on Leonardo's celebrated masterpiece, are considered among Warhol's most significant late work. (left: Andy Warhol, Ten-Foot Flowers, 1967, silkscreen ink, acrylic paint on canvas; Siftung Samlung Marx, Hamburger Bahnhof -- Museum Für Gegenwart, Berlin; © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York)

"Andy Warhol was the most important chronicler of the second half of the 20th century," said Heiner Bastian, curator of the exhibition. "His powerful and striking images capture the beauty and tragedy of the significant events and icons of his time and his works have made an indelible mark on contemporary culture."

MOCA's unique opportunity to host this extraordinary exhibition underscores the landmark position that the city occupies in the history of Warhol's early work. Warhol's first solo exhibition -- of Campbell's Soup Cans paintings -- was presented in Los Angeles at the legendary Ferus Gallery in 1962, followed by Elvis Portraits in 1963. In 1970, the Pasadena Art Museum organized the first American retrospective exhibition to travel internationally.

"Given Warhol's close association Los Angeles, it is only fitting for MOCA to host this landmark exhibition," said MOCA Director Jeremy Strick. "We are privileged to bring Warhol back to Los Angeles and honor his extraordinary and lasting contributions to the art and culture of our time."

Employing mass-production techniques to create works, Warhol erased traditional distinctions between fine art and popular culture, subtly blurring the boundaries of mass art and high culture with his striking appropriations. His choice of subjects tapped into important themes: power, fame, and tragedy. With an unerring eye for iconic images, from common objects to celebrities and disasters, Warhol produced a lasting oeuvre that captured the essence of American culture.

Andy Warhol Retrospective has been organized by the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin and curated by Bastian, art historian and independent curator. MOCA's presentation is coordinated by MOCA Senior Curator Ann Goldstein.


Background on the artist

Andy Warhol was born Andy Warhola in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928, and studied pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute. After graduating, he moved to New York to work as a fashion illustrator and commercial artist. His early work included huge enlargements of comic strip pictures that were used in the display windows of New York department stores such as Bonwit Teller and I. Miller. Throughout the 1950s he enjoyed a successful career as a commercial artist, exhibiting and winning awards for his drawings before moving in 1960 into painting. In addition to painting, Warhol made numerous 16mm films, many of which have become underground classics such as The Chelsea Girls, Empire, Sleep, Kiss, and Lonesome Cowboys.

During the 1960s, at a time when popular culture became a dominant force in both society and the arts, Andy Warhol became a leading figure of Pop Art. He was also an icon of pop culture in his own right, moving beyond the boundaries of fine art to become (from 1963) an innovative filmmaker, and (in 1966) shaping a seminal moment of rock history with the launch of the band The Velvet Underground. He is often quoted for his statement "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." In 1968 he was shot by Valerie Solanas and almost died. Although weakened he remained creatively active. In the early 1970s, he began publishing Interview magazine.

Following routine gall bladder surgery, Andy Warhol died on February 22, 1987. After his burial in Pittsburgh, his friends and associates organized a memorial mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York that was attended by more than 2,000 people. In 1989, the Museum of Modern Art in New York had a major retrospective of his works. The Andy Warhol Museum opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in May 1994.


Exhibition tour and catalogue

The exhibition was previously on view in Berlin (October 2, 2001 through January 6, 2002) and at the Tate Modern in London (February 7 through April 1, 2002).

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue. Andy Warhol Retrospective features 239 color plates and essays by Bastian and other leading art historians Kirk Varnedoe, Donna De Salvo, Peter-Klaus Schuster, and Antje Dallmann. The catalogue is available at The MOCA Store.

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