Portraits by Andy Warhol
Portraits by Andy Warhol
Warhol’s Kimiko Series features Kimiko Powers, an art collector. Popularized in international art circles in the 1960s, Kimiko and her husband, John, amassed one of the most comprehensive private collection of pop art. This perhaps led to her friendship with famous artists such as Andy Warhol. This was also around the time in the 1970s when Warhol began to regularly accept commissions to paint portraits of the rich and famous because he thought that everyone deserved their “15 minutes.” This portrait captures Kimiko wearing a traditional Japanese dress, glancing at the observer, suggestively Warhol, in an intimate manner. It captures the often unexamined bond between the artist and the collector.
Printmaking, and in particular screenprint, was the basic medium for Andy Warhol’s celebrated work on canvas and paper. While a prize-winning commercial artist in the 1950s, he devised a printing process of blotting outline drawings in ink from one surface to another. In a whimsical book of fashionable shoe styles, done at the time he was head of advertising at a shoe company, his blotted drawings were reproduced and then hand-colored by a team of friends.
Although Warhol adopted a bland, detached persona, he was an extremely energetic artist and self-promoter who played a significant role in redirecting the course of art. Rather than deriving his work from subjective personal feelings or idealist visions for abstraction, Warhol embraced popular culture and commercial processes. He eventually set up his own print-publishing company called Factory Additions, issuing portfolios of his signature themes. By celebrating the seemingly impervious veneer of glamour and fame, but acknowledging its darker inner complexity, these prints reveal Warhol’s subtle grasp of American culture.
Warhol did not participate in the collaborative printshop system established in America in the 1960s, but his work contributed decisively to what has been characterized as a “print boom” at that time. Through the course of his career, he made nearly eight hundred printed images on paper, about half published in traditional editions. He was also a surprisingly experimental printmaker, issuing hundreds of trial proofs and unique variants. The compositions that make up Camouflage, his last portfolio, constitute a playful commentary on abstraction. Through manipulation of scale and color from sheet to sheet, Warhol alters the visual impact of the military fabric used for concealment. In examples on canvas, he also superimposes his face, linking self-portraiture with disguise.
A skilled social networker, Warhol parlayed his fame, one connection at a time, to the status of a globally recognized brand. Decades before widespread reliance on portable media devices, he documented his daily activities and interactions on his traveling audio tape recorder and beloved Minox 35EL camera. Predating the hyper-personal outlets now provided online, Warhol captured life’s every minute detail in all its messy, ordinary glamour and broadcast it through his work, to a wide and receptive audience.
More than twenty years after his death, Andy Warhol remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. Warhol’s life and work inspires creative thinkers worldwide thanks to his enduring imagery, his artfully cultivated celebrity, and the ongoing research of dedicated scholars. His impact as an artist is far deeper and greater than his one prescient observation that “everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” His omnivorous curiosity resulted in an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture.
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