Was Andy Warhol’s Christ a 90-Pound Weakling?

THE DAILY PIC: A new show at the Andy Warhol Museum looks at Warhol and the body – and makes clear he had brains.

THE DAILY PIC (#1660): This is probably the  touchstone piece in the important show called “Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body” that opened Friday at the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh. Incredibly, it is the first exhibition to bring Warhol into contact with the  corporeal issues that have been hot in the art of the last several decades. Warhol comes off, as he should, as the first of the great postmoderns.

Today’s Pic is part of the Last Supper series that Warhol worked on in 1986, only months before his unexpected death. It lets us in once again on how plain smart – even book smart – Warhol really was, despite a lifetime’s effort to camouflage his knowledge. It is impossible to imagine that the person making this painting, explicitly about embodiment and divinity, didn’t know that Christian theology had always revolved around those topics. In this almost-last painting of Warhol’s (not that he had any clue it would be that) he seems to have wanted to let us know that he wasn’t the dullard he’d been painted. After more than his share of bad reviews, maybe he wanted us to notice that same level of sophistication in his earlier work. Because one of the things that I’ve noticed in writing my Warhol biography – and that the new Warhol  show underlines – is the amazing continuities that extend across Warhol’s career and life.

The painting in today’s Pic, for instance, was actually executed with glow-in-the-dark paint, and in my very first weeks of research what did I come across among Warhol’s papers but a paper cross from 1954 that was also glow-in-the-dark, and came with a little text underlining what that meant: “SHINES IN THE DARK/Pin on bedroom wall where the light will strike it. The cross will quickly absorb enough light to make it glow for hours after the light is turned off.” And then I also found a 1963 reference to plans Warhol was making for glow-in-the-dark porn.

This could all be coincidence, but with Warhol I’m always more prone to imagining that there’s a big plan afoot that only slowly gets revealed to us. Sounds almost divine. (Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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