Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Little Electric Chair

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Little Electric Chair
synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on canvas--unframed
221/8 x 281/8 in. (56.4 x 71.3 cm.)
Painted in 1965
Sale room notice
Please note the exhibition information listed in the catalogue is incorrect. The work was not included in the exhibition, Andy Warhol: a factory.

Lot Essay

This work is stamped with the Andy Warhol Estate stamp and numbered PA57.009.

Between 1963 and 1967, the artist made three groups of paintings using the same haunting photograph of an empty electrocution chamber.

In the present painting, the yawning space, like the implied silence and unoccupied chair, leaves a pregnant emptiness, allowing abundant room for the viewer's imaginative self-projections. The stillness of these Electric Chair paintings, their lack of the frenetic action or devastating destruction which characterizes so many of Warhol's other images in the Death and Disaster series, heightens this effect.

The image that Warhol selected for his Electric Chair paintings was a 1953 photograph of the death chamber in Sing Sing prison. In 1963, when Warhol started these works, this New York penitentiary had just performed the state's last executions. "The electric-chair pictures, as a group . . . mark the point where the brutal fact of violent death entered the realm of contemporary politics. The early 1960s, following the recent execution of Caryl Chessman in California, had seen agitation against the death penalty grow to an unprecedented level of intensity. The partisan character of Warhol's is literal and straightforward, as the artist himself was wont to be, and that is what saves them from mere morbidity. (T. Crow, "Saturday Disasters," in After the Party: Andy Warhol Works 1956-86, exh. cat., Dublin and London, 1997, pp. 29-30).

(fig. 1) Execution of a man in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison.

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