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Warhol Retrospective Reveals Andy's Playful And Provocative Influences

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Artist Andy Warhol's greatest work of art may have been Warhol himself.

The things that reflected his fascinations as well as what inspired him will be on display in a major retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago beginning this weekend.

"Andy Warhol-From A To B And Back Again" includes works from Warhol's start as an illustrator for magazines and department stores, to becoming the portrait artist to the stars and how other objects and images captivated the artist.

Muhammad Ali, 1977
Andy Warhol. Muhammad Ali, 1977. University of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park; gift of The Frederick Weisman Company. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Muhammad Ali™; Rights of Publicity and Persona Rights: ABG Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC.

"This exhibition brings together all aspects and periods of his varied and prolific career and includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, videos, archival and printed material, installation, films, and media works," according to an online statement from the Art Institute.

Diana Vreeland, about 1956
Andy Warhol. Diana Vreeland, about 1956. Private collection. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh in 1928, he never let go of the ordinary things that were part of his day-to-day life growing up, like grocery store items that he'd consume simply because he liked them. After graduating from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now known as Carnegie Mellon University) Warhol moved to New York in the 1950s to work as a commercial artist. But he also enjoyed drawing images of his friends.

Liz #3 [Early Colored Liz], 1963
Andy Warhol. Liz #3, [Early Colored Liz], 1963. The Stefan T. Edlis collection, partial and promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

It was in the 1960s that Warhol was taken by commercial images like those from comic books and advertisements of food and drinks. In 1964, Warhol moved into a large Manhattan loft covered with aluminum foil and silver paint, known as the Silver Factory or simply The Factory.

That space was where artists, musicians, celebrities and "regular" people spent time in the place where Warhol created some of his iconic work. But for Warhol, watching people and how they lived was really important to him.

"I really don't care that much about 'Beauties.' What I really like are Talkers," Warhol said in the celebrated book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to Be and Back Again).

During this time, he started to experiment with a screen printing technique that he'd use throughout his career. He would make many silkscreen images, including those of his famous soup cans.

The exhibit also includes a number of self-portraits and images of celebrity friends, and those he didn't know but was equally intrigued by. He also painted political figures. One, the ruler of a country. Another, a notable transgender activist.

"By showcasing the full continuum of Warhol's work, rather than focusing on a certain period, this presentation demonstrates that the artist didn't slow down after surviving the assassination attempt that nearly took his life in 1968 but entered into a period of intense experimentation."

Skull, 1976
Andy Warhol. Skull, 1976. Collection of Larry Gagosian. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Warhol was also interested in images invoking death and disaster, including those with Jacqueline Kennedy, electric chairs and weapons. Towards the end of his life (Warhol died in 1987 after complications following gallbladder surgery,) he collaborated with other would-be influential artists including Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

But Warhol's works weren't limited to the canvas. He was a filmmaker and photographer. Warhol had his own MTV show, Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes and he made many TV appearances on shows and commercials.

To commemorate the exhibit, Art on theMart will project four Warhol images on theMart (formerly known as the Merchandise Mart) starting around 6:45 Thursday night.

The images include Andy Warhol's Liz #3 [Early Colored Liz], Flowers, Shot Orange Marilyn, and Cow Wallpaper [Pink on Yellow.] The Art on theMart images will be displayed for about two hours every night, Wednesday through Sunday, 30 minutes after sunset through December 31.

According to the Art Institute "his true genius lies in his ability to identify cultural patterns and to use repetition, distortion, and recycled images in a way that challenges our faith in images and questions the meaning of our cultural icons."

But more to the point, Warhol described his artwork as a reflection of himself.

"If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings, and films and me, and there I am," Warhol said in 1966 in the East Village Other. "There's nothing behind it."

Debbie Harry, 1980
Andy Warhol. Debbie Harry, 1980. Collection of Deborah Harry. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Andy Warhol - From A To Be And Back Again runs through January 26, 2020.

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