In the late 1970s, Warhol's status as a celebrity and his renown as an artist were so wide-spread that he created a series of pictures based on his own most famous works. The 'Reversal Series' took images such as his iconic Marilyns, but reproduced them in negative. Thus Warhol, the perennial magpie artist who had repeatedly plundered popular culture for his source images, now realised that he himself was integral enough a part of popular culture that he could plunder his own images. Warhol's influence on the visual world was by now so endemic that when people looked at this image, they might have recognised it as a Warhol before realising it was Marilyn. Pop, in short, had eaten itself.
In his Reversal works, the negative format creates an air of mystery that appears at odds with the openly iconic nature of the image. The darkness adds a depth, and demands that the viewer look more carefully at the work, no longer allowing us to take Warhol's best-known image for granted. In this Marilyn, the instantly recognised features of the actress are clearly visible despite the minimum of means with which they have been rendered. Against the dark background, only a few contrasting pink and blue flickers make up the face.
The lurid colours of the original 1960s Marilyns, where her features were coloured in various gaudy hues, are in stark contrast to the darkness of the present work, which appears almost solemn by comparison. In a sense, this appears as a reference to the context of Warhol's original Marilyn pictures, which he created after her death. At the same time, the streaks of colour in this Marilyn have a vibrancy, an intensity, that appears wholly in keeping with the disco era in which it was created, and shows the extent to which both Warhol's and Marilyn's legacies are still alive.