Andy Warhol Cowboys and Indians Portfolio (F & S II.373-376)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title: Cowboys and Indians (F & S II.373-376) Year: 1986 Size 36 x 36″ 91.4 x 91.4cm Medium: Portfolio of three screenprints on Lenox Museum Board. Edition: Edition of 36 TP of each print signed and numbered in pencil.
Andy Warhol Cowboys and Indians Portfolio (F & S II.373-376)Meaning & History
Warhol's Cowboys and Indians is a 'statement on the idea of the Old West, how that’s more myth than fact' - Richard Melton.
Cowboys and Indians is a series of four unique screenprints executed by the artist in 1986. Depicting a Native American Indian in a war bonnet, a buffalo nickel, a still from a Western film and the Hunkpapa leader Sitting Bull, the series conflates real Native American history alongside its fictionalised version. The four prints are the genesis of a larger series of ten screenprints of the American West, an often overlooked obsession of the artist’s.
The four screenprints depict both objects and people, for example a buffalo nickel and a war bonnet indian. This representation is one that can be seen to align with the real commodification of the Wild West in American culture, one that Warhol himself grew up with in the 1930s and 1940s, when Westerns dominated cinema. This would undoubtedly leave a mark on Warhol as he became an ardent collector of Western memorabilia, and even travelled to Arizona with his friends from the Factory to produce a Western in 1968, Lonesome Cowboys. The influence of the American west in film, too, is felt on the present portfolio is based on a film still.
Cowboys and Indians can be seen to be on the surface, a crass cultural appropriation of the culture it deals with. In the wider Warholian psyche, one remembers that the artist was primarily concerned with America, and the images that were most widely consumed. The juxtaposition between the real Lakota Leader and the still of the War Bonnet Indian can be seen to mirror the misinformed, dramatised understanding of indigenous people. Through this lens, as Richard Melton states, it can be seen that Cowboys and Indians is a ‘statement on the idea of the Old West, how that’s more myth than fact.’
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