"Andy Warhol – Stars, Deaths, and Disasters"

The show, Andy Warhol – Stars, Deaths, and Disasters at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, displays a number of his artworks from his Disaster series. Part of one hallway is devoted to a few impressions of Elizabeth Taylor (Silver Life 1963, Blue Liz as Cleopatra 1962) and the other to Jacqueline Kennedy (Nine Jackies, 1964, Twenty Jackies, 1964, etc.)  There is a space where depictions of Elvis Presley (Single Elvis 1963, Elvis and Elvis II, 1963) are displayed. Another space displays a few Marilyn Monroes (Marilyn Monroe’s Lips, 1962, Turquoise Marilyn, 1964 etc.) A portion of the show consists of the paintings that magnify the tragedies of day-to-day existence by repeating the images of car accidents and riots, taken from the newspaper photographs. This section includes Five Deaths, 1963, Saturday Disaster, 1963-64 and Little Race Riot, 1964.  The show also consist of a video named Screen Test. A small room displays the newspaper cuttings that show some of the photographs from which he derived his works.

Marilyn Monroe’s Lips, 1962

Andy Warhol’s fascination with Hollywood celebrities is obvious but his work on celebrities also depicts their human vulnerabilities. Sometimes he uses colorful forms over the main image as in Dame Elizabeth Taylor, 1967 to create a mask like quality in the image that implies that under this mask the same vulnerable human exists that is standing in front of it, viewing the image. At other he repeats and gradually or randomly fades the main image as in Twenty Jackies, 1964, to pronounce the vulnerability of the depicted celebrity. This approach creates tension as the image has both a god-like quality while at the same time the human vulnerabilities of the subject seep through the image.  

Twenty Jackies, 1964

The images of his Disaster series that either show enlarged newspaper photographs with one predominant hue of color or a repetition of the same image with or without any color, tend to magnify the depicted tragedies in these newspaper photographs. But at the same time, if we stay with them for a while, they desensitize us, and take us to a point where we are ready to accept these tragedies of life as part of our day-to-day existence.

Green Disaster I

Andy Warhol’s art creates the same effect on its viewers as an Abstract expressionistic painting. An AbEx painting uses the elements of painting such as line and color to intensify the feelings that the subject of the painting is supposed to evoke in the viewers, whereas Andy Warhol creates the same effect by maneuvering the photographic reality. His establishes a direct interaction with the viewer in which reality is his actual tool, whereas an AbEx painting approaches the viewer in an indirect way through the distortion of form or by the acute use of color and line to create the required mystery or drama.

Andy Warhol represents the era when Pop Art not only flourished due to the success of his work, but also had a considerable impact on the art world of that time. We can still see the tremendous effect of his work on Pop Art in particular and the art world in general.

Imran Omer

Home  Articles