Andy Warhol Electric Chairs (F & S II.74 - 83)
Catalogue Title Electric Chairs (F & S II.74 - 83) Year 1971 Size 35 1/2″ x 48″ 90.1 x 121,9 cm Medium Portfolio of 10 screenprints on paper. Edition Edition of 250 signed and dated ’71 in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso; some signed in pencil. There are 50 AP numbered in Roman numerals, signed and dated in ball-point pen on verso and stamped AP and numbered with a ribber stamp on verso.
Andy Warhol Electric Chairs (F & S II.74 - 83)Meaning & History
"A piece of machinery so lacking in life is the very conduit that destroys it."
Electric Chairs is a portfolio of ten screenprints produced in 1971, a part of Warhol’s expansive Death and Disaster series, exploring the darker side to the second half of the twentieth century. Perhaps no artist better encapsulated the duality in the public consciousness of this era: violence, materialism and celebrity were of all equal importance in the artist’s imagination. Warhol was particularly adept in juxtaposing these grim, morbid subjects with a Pop Art sensibility in bold, bright colours.
Electric Chairs is perhaps the most direct treatment of death, revealed in a symbol of the idea itself rather than a portrait; Warhol had previously turned to Jacqueline Kennedy’s image to represent experiencing the grief of losing her husband in the public eye. The electric chair, an object devoid of consciousness and with sparse detail, offers a wealth of interpretation relating to mechanisation. A piece of machinery so lacking in life is the very conduit that destroys it. The artist’s fascination with the grim subject matter is tied to an almost national feeling for Warhol. In 1962 – the year in which the Death and Disaster series came about, Warhol’s collaborator, Henry Geldzahler invited the artist to consider the sinister undercurrent of the United States: ‘Maybe everything isn’t always so fabulous in America. It’s time for some death. This is what’s really happening.’
Electric Chairs also embodies the key tenet of Warhol’s Pop Art: seriality. The electric chair is undeniably unnerving image to be viewed once. Warhol’s forceful repetition speaks to the desensitisation with which the modern human condition is accustomed to: ‘When you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn’t really have an effect.’
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