Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again at the Art Institute Chicago

In October 2019, I was in Chicago, IL to present my thesis research on David Bowie at the Fan Studies Network North America Conference (FSNNA19). While there, my friend Jessie and I spent some time at the Art Institute of Chicago to see exhibit ‘Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again.’ This exhibit originally was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, where Jessie and I are both from, however, we missed it at home so I felt lucky to get a second chance at it!

‘From A to B and Back Again’ is the first major retrospective of Andy Warhol’s work to be organized by a US institution in thirty years, and features over 400 works spanning the entirety of his career in art and design. Beginning with his work in the commercial art world (with packaging designs), extending into paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, videos, archival materials and more.

Having only seen a select few of Warhol’s pieces previously, and those predominantly being of the more iconic and widely known pop art pieces on display over the years at the Whitney Museum or the Museum of Modern Art, this exhibit left me in awe. I hadn’t realized just how great the scope of Warhol’s work was, both in range of coverage and size. Standing face to face with some of his massive canvases took my breath away.

Since I visited right after attending an academic conference on popular culture and fan studies, I also had a lot of thoughts about Warhol as the ultimate fan. Someone who was able to penetrate through to the other side of his fandom, befriend the celebrities and public figures he liked and collaborate with them. He also, of course, made a ton of fan art of these people and things.

When looking at his pieces on death and disaster, I felt especially connected to his work since so much of my academic work is also focused on death and disaster. Like Warhol, I’ve focused on the death of celebrities and public figures – like John F. Kennedy – and have been fascinated in how people react to tragedies. This is something I may need to circle back to eventually, but it really spoke to me in a way I was not expecting it to.

Don’t miss your chance to see it! ‘Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again’ closes in Chicago on January 26, 2020. More information can be found here.

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