Andy Warhol Camouflage Portfolio (F & S II.406-413)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title: Camouflage (F & S II.406-413) Year: 1987 Size 38 x 38″ 96.5 x 96.5 cm Medium: Portfolio of eight screenprints on Lenox Museum Board Edition: Portfolio of 8. Edition of 80, 3 PP, 1 EP, 84 individual TP not in portfolios, signed and numbered in pencil on verso by the executor of The Estate of Andy Warhol on a stamped certificate of authenticity.
Andy Warhol Camouflage Portfolio (F & S II.406-413)Meaning & History
The final portfolio ever created by the celebrated Pop artist, Camouflage reinvents a utilitarian, militaristic pattern, turning it on its head. Eight screenprints in a multitude of colours and sizes showcase Warhol's triumphant foray in abstraction.
Camouflage is a portfolio of eight screenprints executed in 1987, the final series ever produced by the celebrated Pop artist. The edition of trial proofs mark a return to abstract expressionism after decades of portraiture, by exploring the aesthetic possibilities of an originally militaristic and utilitarian pattern. In an array of neutral greens, fluorescent pinks and turquoise, Warhol takes a design once historically burdened and bestows it with individual character.
Seriality takes a central position in Warhol’s oeuvre, with images repeating both literally in the artist’s screenprinting process and figuratively. Here Warhol employs seriality in abstraction as he does in portrait works, with the camouflage traversing, sprawling and dancing across the space of the print in a multitude of sizes and widths. What inspired Warhol to take on the pattern remains unknown, but in the same manner as with soup cans and brillo boxes, the artist purchased the real object - camouflage netting, before photographing and altering it. Screenprints such as 413 resemble natural formations such as coral, whilst the stylish grooves of 410 point to the presence of camouflage in fashion. Though Warhol’s portfolio can be appreciated in its full decorative splendor, its metaphorical possibilities are expansive as an object of concealment, one that can be linked to Warhol’s own obsession with self-disguise: the artist famously resorted to wigs, costume and heavy make-up to create an image totally unrecognisable from his natural features. In the words of Blake Gopnik, ‘the Andy Warhol we thought we knew was nothing more than a creation, a disguise.’ Indeed Warhol had used the camouflage pattern for a silkscreen portrait in 1986, a year earlier, encapsulating his personal connection to the motif.
A second aspect of Camouflage is its conversion from the militaristic to the neutral. In previously having chosen icons of dictatorships such as Mao Zhedong and Vladimir Lenin to reimagine in saturated colour portraits, the artist became a master of lifting subjects from their political and social contexts. Arguably for the first time these controversial revolutionaries were seen as kitsch, rather than all-powerful. In the same vein, Camouflage is so vivid and unmistakable that its very purpose is negated, and the viewer is met with the obscure and nebulous shapes on their own: arguably, the purest iteration of form and colour. Warhol’s twentieth century post-war sensibility is a reclaimant one that demarcates the arrival of Pop Art, with the intention to overturn traditional American symbols. As Warhol’s contemporary, Lichtenstein put it, ‘Pop art is an involvement with what I think to be the most brazen and threatening characteristics of our culture, things we hate, but which are also powerful in their impingement on us.’
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