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Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Property from a Private American Collector
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Beatle Boots (Negative)

Details
Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
Beatle Boots (Negative)
stamped twice with the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. stamps and numbered twice 'PA10.557' (on the overlap); numbered again 'PA10.557' (on the stretcher); numbered again 'PA10.557' (on the backing board)
synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas
80 x 72 in. (203.2 x 182.9 cm.)
Painted circa 1985-1986.
Provenance
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
London, Gagosian Gallery, B&W Paintings: Ads and Illustrations 1985-1986, February-March 2002, p. 16 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

“Warhol’s freehand draftsmanship and fluid brushwork enliven the surface of these works … [They are] a remarkable group of paintings that exemplify his exploration of the dialectic between hand painting and mechanical reproduction. …In these Ads, Warhol toys mischievously with the illusory potential of hand and mechanical processes, putting a new spin on trompe-loeil painting.”



Painted by the grandmaster of the Pop art movement, Andy Warhol, Beatle Boots (Negative), contrasts the innocence and enthusiasm of the early Beatles’ years against the sad fact of Lennon’s untimely death—the art work having been created just a few years after Lennon was killed, resonating in an entirely different way than the subject would have if created before Lennon’s demise. The original advertising image source material is presented in reverse register, the original light areas appearing dark, as a photographic negative does. Warhol’s decision to present a tonally reversed image was consistent with an earlier series the artist had pursued in the late 1970s, where he looked back on his earlier Marilyn Monroe portraits, presenting her face as a ghostly negative image. Black dominates the entire surface area of the canvas of Beatle Boots (Negative), underscoring the retrospectively somber tone that the image would assume. The original advertisement had a hand-drawn quality, and Warhol chose to emphasize that look. The result is a work in contrast with the smooth surfaced, mechanically produced screen print work that Warhol often created. Here, the surface of the work and the touch of paint and brush upon it are clearly visible.

The present work is a striking example from a distinctive and significant series of artworks that Andy Warhol produced in the mid-1980s, a series often referred to simply as the Black & White Ads series. Beatle Boots (Negative) is a large-scale painting which makes reference to and originates from a simple, low-budget print advertisement that probably appeared in a newspaper sometime in the mid-1960s at the height of the Beatlemania years. Warhol’s painting itself, however, was created many years after the original ad was placed, Warhol having created the present work in the years following shortly after John Lennon’s assassination in the mid-80s. Thus Warhol presents the appropriated image in an entirely different and far less innocent light from that which the original advertisement would have been perceived.

For the graphically bold and visually striking paintings in the Black and White Ads series, Warhol brought together the mechanically produced silkscreen technique he had become so famous for, in combination with a free application of paint on canvas applied by hand. “Warhol’s freehand draftsmanship and fluid brushwork enliven the surface of these works, which are essentially silkscreened reproductions of his original drawings. The duality of the hand and the machine are at work here. …[They are] a remarkable group of paintings that exemplify his exploration of the dialectic between hand painting and mechanical reproduction. …In these Ads, Warhol toys mischievously with the illusory potential of hand and mechanical processes, putting a new spin on trompe-loeil painting” (J. Ketner, Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, Milwaukee, 2009, p. 33).

During this period of the mid-80s Warhol had been collaborating on paintings with the much younger emerging painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and working with Basquiat may have encouraged the older artist to apply paint by hand. In selecting the ads that he would use, Warhol looked for those with hand-painted illustrations and lettering. The Black & White Ads series revisits the limitless cultural repository of signs and symbols to be found in the media world of commodities, celebrity culture, and, specific to the current work, popular music. Ready-mades in the manner of Marcel Duchamp, the advertising images represent the culture speaking back to us, by way of the artist.

The subjects in this series ranged quite broadly in topic and in time period, from advertisements for items such as motorcycles and Campbell’s Soup to bodybuilding and alternative medicines, to political topics such as the US federal deficit and global militarism. Warhol raided his past work for mass culture media images, these images reflecting both larger social events and trends as well as seeming to have personal resonance for Warhol in these the last few years of his life. References to high culture and low culture subjects abound in this series, as in much of Warhol’s entire body of work. The series revisits, in subject matter and in concept, some of Warhol’s earliest fine art works, in particular his paintings of advertisements from the period1960-1961. The choice of shoes as a subject for Beatle Boots (Negative) is not coincidental; Warhol had been drawing shoes as subjects from his early years as a commercial artist, and he had continued to include shoes as a motif right up through his work of the 1980s. Shoes encompass the same high/low culture as so many other subjects of Warhol’s. They reference commercial culture, street culture, and the shoe as fetish object.

“When we examine the last decade of Warhol’s career, we witness a mature artist bringing his own oeuvre full circle, sweeping the early images for which he is so well known into a complex dance of painting and printing, abstraction and representation, surface and meaning” (J. Ketner, quoted in “Andy Warhol The Last Decade At Brooklyn Museum,” Antiques and the Arts Weekly, July 26, 2010, http://www.antiquesandthearts.com/andy-warhol-the-last-decade-at-brooklyn-museum/).

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