Wednesday, 22 February 2017

# 449

Today is the 30th anniversary of Andy Warhol's death... a man obsessed with the subject of death in his own art:

In 1978, the year of his 50th birthday, Warhol painted self-portraits with a skull close to his head (either balanced on his shoulder, or on his head). The personal association with death, and now perhaps a private readiness for it, became overt. At about the same time he made another self-portrait showing himself being strangled. [...] Warhol made his scariest, and what turned out to be his last, self-portrait early in 1986. At that time he was also experimenting with a new form of abstraction, a new kind of blank for the mid 1980s-paintings of camouflage patterns. Like his Shadows project, camouflage was a subject that was real but ultimately symbolized nothingness - in this case invisibility. [...] His obsession with disappearance and his scrutiny of death persisted to the end. The thoughts of death that filled Warhol's last years - the camouflage idea, the tragic self-portrait, the paintings of Leonardo's Last Supper - span back to the first death and disaster works of 1962. In the intervening decade, the Skulls carried the theme and kept Warhol's edge as sharp and repellent to normalcy as it had ever been.  --- Trevor Fairbrother, 'Skulls'