McKinnon of the Milwaukee Art Museum presents Warhol’s later works

Samuel Flood

John McKinnon, Assistant
Curator of Modern and
Contemporary Art at the Milwaukee
Art Museum, spoke Feb. 4 on the
work of the artist Andy Warhol.
McKinnon used the exhibit “Andy
Warhol: The Last Decade,” which
he organized, as a platform to
speak about Warhol’s later life and
“Andy Warhol: The Last
Decade” was exhibited at the
Milwaukee Art Museum from Sept.
26 to Jan. 3. It was the first time an
exhibition of Warhol’s later work
had ever been shown in the U.S.,
and is now on a national circuit of
“One thing that made the
show very unique was that the
loans were very hard to get,” said
He added that Warhol’s paintings
carry very high market value,
and that some of the paintings
shown in the exhibit were more
than 35 feet long, adding practical
difficulties to their collection.
McKinnon focused on several
thematic sections during his lecture
– following the pattern of the
Milwaukee Art Museum’s exhibit.
Among the 55 works shown were
groupings from significant Warhol
series: abstract works, collaborations,
black-and-white advertisements,
works concerning death,
self-portraits and camouflage patterns.
The works dated from 1978
up to 1987, the year of Warhol’s
McKinnon also spoke about the
ways in which the last decade of
Warhol’s life was a time in which
Warhol both confronted the ghost
of his former successes and the
looming specter of his own mortality.
During this period, McKinnon
said, Warhol wanted to create
“ready-made abstractions” to
“poke fun at the idea of people
gaining meaning from paintings.”
His “Yarn” series of this time
drew from Jackson Pollock’s action
paintings, while at the same time
subverting them and popularizing
Later in his life, Warhol created
a series of black-and-white ad
“These paintings lack color,”
McKinnon said, “but make up for
it in social commentary. They’re
personal. A lot of his friends from
the ’60s were fading away from
drug addiction and AIDS.”
McKinnon was quick to add
that Warhol was always elusive
about his paintings. He rarely
answered questions about them,
and when he did, was often obtuse
or deliberately deceitful.
McKinnon pointed to one
particular quote by Warhol as an
example of this: “If you want to
know all about Andy Warhol,”
Warhol said, “just look at the surface
of my paintings, my films, and
me, and there I am.”
McKinnon emphasized that
those who seek meaning in
Warhol’s paintings are often misled
by this carefully constructed
John McKinnon completed a
B.S. degree in studio art at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison,
and obtained a job as director
of the Wendy Cooper gallery in
Chicago. While there, he earned
two Master’s degrees in art history
and art administration. He
has been published in numerous
art journals, including Flash and
Art Forum.