Inspired by the inkblots that Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach had devised shortly after World War I for psychological testing, Warhol essentially returned--though on a somewhat larger scale--to his old blotted-line technique. This time, however, instead of blotting ink on paper he now blotted paint onto canvas. Unrolling the canvas onto the floor of his newly acquired larger studio, he poured black pigment (Liquitex) in an abstract configuration on one half, then pressed the other half over it to repeat the image, resulting in a symmetrical design.
Among Warhol's prolific production of works for specific consumerist markets throughout the 60s and 70s, the Rorschach series of 1984 stands out as a set of works not so blatantly commercially focused. Having endured an ever-floundering reputation in the vanguard circles of the art world, and having New York critics condemning him for not being avant-garde anymore, the very concept of this series and the act of their creation can be seen as a deliberate and perverse resemblance to Abstract Expressionism. It is the free handling of the medium and the resultant abstract image that unites these Rorschach works to other abstract series within Warhol's oeuvre, namely, the Shadows, Camouflages and Oxidation ("Piss") paintings. Within these abstract series one single truth reasserts itself; that these works are pure surface and nothing more. All of them enigmatic pastures of various mediums paying tribute to the artist's devotion to essentially elusive and even ineffable images. By emptying the Rorschach works of any significant content, Warhol is flying in the face of his Pop Art foundations, going against the grain of 'Low Art' and entering the realms of so-called 'High Art'. The preceding Oxidation paintings were a direct reference to the Abstract Expressionists such as Pollock, as are the Rorschach works. The uninhibited methods by which he chose to execute this significant series testify to his strong desire to experiment with other types of art, even if he was railing against the established foundations of the very genre that he pioneered.
Fig. 1 Jackson Pollock, Number 3 (Image of Man), 1951
Collection of Robert U. Ossorio