"American money is very well designed, really. I like it better than any other kind of money I've thrown it in the East River down by The Staten Island Ferry just to see it float" (Andy Warhol quoted in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, p. 137).
Dollar Sign from 1982 is one of the most iconic images Andy Warhol created. It boldly represents his fascination with commodity and Pop culture, a thread that runs through his entire oeuvre. Warhol loved money, even to the point of cupidity, and incorporated this passion as a fetish in his work. For Warhol, money functions as an object of power and obsessive devotion in two senses: as means and as meaning, as emblem and as design.
Since his early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol's relationship with art and money evolved in the context of consumer culture of the 1960s. Drawing upon his earlier representations of money as we see in 200 One Dollar Bills, from 1962, Dollar Sign becomes the singular image the artist chooses to construct a powerful visual symbol of his fixation. It is Warhol's obsession with money, and in particular, with the U.S. currency symbol--one sole image that represents America's commercial, materialistic culture-- that makes this painting so impactful.
Through his artistic interpretation of a dollar sign, Warhol romanticized the relationship between art and money. He develops a visual vocabulary that is both powerful and provocative; a visual currency that translates beautifully on the rich, red canvas. Through the pulsating, saturated colors in Dollar Sign, Warhol brings this symbol to life in graphic force. Multiple overlaid impressions of the motif, deliberately misaligned, make the dollar sign appear to move and expand beyond its own limits. Warhol's confident and determined lines and curves construct a burly silhouette. Passages of scribbling and unorthodox flourishes bring attention to the sinuous "S" slashed on the vertical axis. Warhol's superimposed dollar signs on dollar signs create a multifaceted perception that plays on repetition. It is a symbol so universally ubiquitous that we have become desensitized to it, yet we are still consumed and obsessed by it. It is Warhol's apt choice of this singular image, both garish and dazzling in its representation, which highlights the artist's uncanny understanding of American culture. Warhol's Dollar Sign from 1982 is both powerful and provocative, a tour de force of one of the artist's most famous symbols. The dollar sign is a symbol, which in the end, is a portrait of the artist himself.