"This is what the Flowers represented, in nascent form. They marked Warhol's pivot away from Pop, and thus from brand names and celebrity portraitsAs we've seen, this move involved generalizing the image, obscuring not just its photographic source but also the specific type of blossoms on offer, in order to prepare it for Warhol's distinctive stamp. Fame, which had long been one of the primary subjects of his work, was now also one of its effects. Warhol's status as an artistic brand had been secured." (M. Lobel, Andy Warhol: Flowers, exh. cat., Eykyn Maclean, New York, 2012, n.p.).
Andy Warhol's Flowers embody a shift in his work from mining celebrity culture to cultivating a more abstract, filmic approach to subject matter. While it is well documented the source material was taken from the article on Kodak's home coloring photographic process in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography, less has been written about how Warhol took this source photograph as raw material and re-fashioned a whole new icon. Michael Lobel in Andy Warhol Flowers (Ibid, n.p.) describes the instructions to his printer scribbled on the newly adjusted photo collage, rotated clockwise once: "Mr. Golden Make in Black + White line sort of/Make like my 13 most wanted men," which refers to his Thirteen Most Wanted Men, 1964 commissioned for the New York State Pavilion at the World's Fair. The panels of starkly screened criminals stare out frontally or placed in profile, creating a patterned grid-like formation that repeats the face/head or seemingly arbitrarily deviates from the order. Once this image was made into a silkscreen, the reverse image is what one sees in the Flower paintings, whereby the blossoms are further transformed into a flattened image suitable for Warhol's masterfully literal trans-figuration of the humble source photograph. They radiate not a sunny, cheerful disposition of which flowers seem to possess naturally but a dark, impersonal quality alluding to sex and death. As the mechanisms of sexual reproduction in plants, flowers acts as alluring agents in order perpetuate that species. Flowers also function a kind of momento mori in art, where in an Old Master painting, everyday objects and flora serve to remind the viewer the incessant marching of time, and how everything living is subject to decay and ultimately death. Warhol's Flowers, despite their bright, unadulterated colors, that epitomizes the optimism and surface of Pop Art; it also shows its sinister, shadowy side, where such levity and promise comes at a steep cost one must bear. Four years later, on June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Any Warhol, inflicting him with gun wounds that could have been fatal.