It does this by organizing traveling exhibitions of his work. One of these, more than 60 prints and four small paintings, plus two special installations, has come to the Reading Public Museum.
One might dismiss such a show of yet more Marilyn Monroes, Elizabeth Taylors, and cow wallpaper as just another marketing initiative, designed to generate income for both the organizing museum and those that rent the show.
It is that certainly, because Warhol's art is both purely anodyne and consistently entertaining - colorful, graphically inventive, apolitical, and readily accessible to all ages, genders, and cultural orientations.
Yet at this stage of Warhol's history, a half-century after his first solo show as a fine artist, one can still wonder if there's sufficient gravity in Warhol's art to merit repeating museum displays. Or even if there's any gravity at all.
Warhol was a hugely influential artist, on par with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. His art both idealizes popular culture and consumerism and represents a successful amalgam of them.
This, I think, is the essence of its appeal - plus the fact that, of all the manifestations of pop art, his most pointedly articulates and celebrates two things many Americans value: shopping and celebrity idolization.
In considering the value of Warhol's art, which this exhibition presents in typically representative variety, it helps to remember that he began as a commercial artist. His inspiration was to realize that the values of commercial art could be elevated through shifts in attitude toward it - context and perception.
This becomes evident if one looks at the Reading museum show primarily as a display of imaginative graphic technique - Warhol as graphic designer, as it were.
There's not much pure conceptual creativity involved in any of this work; mostly, Warhol adapted and enhanced existing content, usually photographs.
This is most obvious in the section devoted to his manipulation of advertisements for mink coats, Chanel perfume, Paramount movies, and Kellogg's cornflakes. The Blackglama mink ad, featuring a luminous Judy Garland, is especially riveting.
A cluster of six Marilyns, the first thing you see as you enter the gallery, represents the apogee of Warhol's ability to refresh a mundane or clichéd image through radical color combinations.
These are transcendent images, as are the Liz Taylors and Ingrid Bergmans nearby, but they reveal more about the artist's personality than those of his subjects.
From the early Campbell's soup cans - five large, color ones here, plus one smaller in black and white - Warhol cultivated mass appeal by using mass media such as screen printing, photography, and film, and the strategies of advertising.
When he didn't use someone else's photographs, he made his own, yet the ultimate character of the finished painting or print devolved more from his hand and eye, and his chosen mechanical process, rather than from the source material.
Two examples in the exhibition, both involving images that I had not previously encountered, demonstrate this.
One is a landscape, rare in Warhol's production, featuring Mount Vesuvius, made by printing over, mostly in red, an appropriated photograph. The other consists of three prints of the Communist hammer and sickle, this time made from a photo of tools purchased from a Manhattan hardware store.
This latter image, in red, white, gray, and black, is a strikingly bold evocation of the Communist emblem. Its essentially graphic presence is as close as Warhol comes to starting from zero; he should have done so more often.
In a similar way, his "camouflage" prints attempt to produce abstraction from something real, in this case, military camouflage patterns.
The eight examples in the show present various color combinations, a standard Warhol tactic, but they're interesting primarily because one recognizes them not as inventions, but as borrowed reality.
The prints, and the small paintings that look like prints, challenge visitors to locate the demarcation between graphic design and fine art, if in fact one exists.
I don't believe that this aspect of Warhol's work will ever resolve itself, which is why repeated exposure doesn't pale.
The same can be said for the two installations, one of which is playfully interactive.
In one gallery, the museum is projecting a dozen of Warhol's black-and-white "screen tests," each about five minutes long. The subjects include artists such as Duchamp and Salvador Dalí, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, actor Dennis Hopper, and Warhol protégée Edie Sedgwick.
Not much "testing" in the Hollywood sense occurs. The film camera stares at faces, and the faces stare back, sometimes fidgeting, sometimes stolid. The real test is whether viewers can endure even five minutes of calculated boredom.
The other installation, Silver Clouds, re-creates a 1966 exhibition at the Leo Castelli gallery in Manhattan. Several dozen pillow-shaped balloons of silver Mylar, filled with a helium-air mixture, drift around the room on air currents generated by four fans.
Visitors entering the room disrupt the currents, altering the trajectories of the "clouds." This marriage of science and art produces random configurations that change continually. It's fun for kids, no doubt; it's also a long way from Leonardo, but not too far from Duchamp.
Periodic exposure to Warhol reminds us that he raised fundamental challenges about the nature of art that still haven't been answered satisfactorily. The Reading show doesn't resolve anything. It simply reminds us that the questions are profound, disturbing, and not easily brushed aside.
Art: Warhol Rolls On
The Andy Warhol exhibition continues
at the Reading Public Museum, 500 Museum Rd., through June 17. Hours are 11 a.m. to
5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 Sundays. Admission is $8 general; $5 for visitors 65 and older, students with I.D., and children 4 to 17. Information: 610-371-5850
Contact Edward J. Sozanski
at 215-854-5595 or email@example.com. Read his recent work