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 work. “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 museums. “One thing that made the show very unique was that the loans were very hard to get,” said McKinnon. 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 death. 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 them. Later in his life, Warhol created a series of black-and-white ad paintings. “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 deception. 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.