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Review: Andy Warhol Enterprises

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5 stars

Indianapolis Museum of Art. Andy Warhol keeps growing on me. For those of us who came of age when Warhol was making his first, impertinent waves across the surface of popular consciousness, it was easy to write him up (or off) as the go-go era's louche trickster. But with time comes perspective, a quality provided in abundance in Andy Warhol Enterprises, the exhibition curated by the IMA's Sarah Urist Green.

"Good business is the best art," said Warhol (1928-1987), a statement that, like so much of his work, has a koan-like resonance. The great virtue of Green's approach is to insist on seeing Warhol whole, from his beginnings as a stylishly mannered commercial illustrator, through the enfant terrible days in the '60s when he became a household word, into the celebrity decadence of disco and, finally, his Autumnal period as multi-media brand.

Consisting over 150 pieces, the exhibition includes paintings, prints, 3-D objects, film, video and a rich assortment of other artifacts. What the show makes clear is that, from start to premature finish, Warhol's work hangs together as an unflinching, obsessive negotiation with the material world. A notorious social butterfly, Warhol turns out to be our great poet of commercial loneliness, an artist who took control of the alienation that comes of being swamped by stuff — from Campbell's soup to celebrities — by turning these things into endlessly reproduced works of art. You can see his career as a master class in cultural judo.

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