By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Sep 23, 2009 at 4:36 PM

Andy Warhol is easily one of the most recognizable, famous and definitely most prolific American artists that ever lived. Not only are there a seemingly endless array of museum exhibits dedicated to his special work, but there are also entire museums created just to display his talents and educate the masses about his fascinating existence.

That said, never before now has there been a Warhol exhibit of any kind, anywhere highlighting the enormous body of work he focused on toward the end of his life. The Milwaukee Art Museum is showing, for the first time, "Andy Warhol: The last Decade," a look at 50 pieces representative of an exciting, energetic, but also reflective and sobering period of Warhol's almost magical life.

During this time he was working like a mad man, his enthusiasm for painting was revived and he was beginning to experiment with revealing more of his personal values, whether they be his often hidden but strong religious convictions or his attitudes towards his own mortality.

There were several contributing factors to this new phase in his career: In the summer of 1977 he visited Paris where the curator of the Centre Pompidou, a new modern art museum that had become controversial due to its avant garde design and construction, gave him a tour of the museum and other hot Parisian art spots. He was immediately inspired.

Secondly, he'd met Jean-Michel Basquiat, a young New York painter with whom he'd form a deep friendship and collaborate, further driving his desire to paint again.

Lastly, in 1978, Warhol turned 50. It was during this time that he began a rather reflective period and produced several works confronting his own eventual death.

What resulted were some major movements in his art, notably his abstracts. In his pieces like "The Oxidation," Warhol urinated onto a canvas primed with copper-based paints to witness the chemical reaction process that ensued. Often, it was beautiful and Warhol was proud of his ability to make "paintings" without using his hands to physically paint.

The MAM exhibit then moves on to other series he accomplished between 1977 and '87, such as his black and white ad series, works surrounding death and religion, self portraits -- it's interesting to watch the transformation here. His early '60s self portraits show a confident young man with chin held high with fame, though his '80s portraits reveal a more scattered sense of self and purpose.

The exhibit concludes with examples of his camouflage pattern -- his favorite motif at the time -- and a gallery dedicated solely to his impressive and moving "Last Supper" series -- the largest of his career.

Warhol created more new series of paintings in the last decade of his life, in larger number and on a vastly larger scale, than during any other phase in his 40-year career. In fact, he created more during this time than most other artists could ever hope to achieve in their lifetime. The Milwaukee ArtMuseum invited you to experience this side of Warhol that, until now, all other exhibitions have neglected. "Andy Warhol: The Last Decade" runs Sept. 26 through Jan. 3, 2010.


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”