Andy Warhol Endangered Species (F & S II.293-302)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title: Endangered Species (F & S II.293-302) Year: 1983 Size 38 x 38″ 96.5 x 96.5cm Medium: Portfolio of ten screenprints on Lenox Museum Board Edition: Edition of 150, 30 AP, 5 PP, 5 EP, 3 HC, 10 numbered in Roman numerals, 1 BAT, 40 TP signed and numbered in pencil.
Andy Warhol Endangered Species (F & S II.293-302)Meaning & History
Warhol called his Endangered Species portfolio 'animals in make-up'. Articulated in kaleidoscopic colours, each screenprint portrays one of the ten animals listed in the Endangered Species Act. The portfolio is a departure from the Pop artist's preoccupation with media and celebrity, instead drawing attention to a critical environmental problem.
Endangered Species is a portfolio of ten screenprints published by the artist in 1983, with each large scale print depicting a different endangered animal. Ranging from an enormous pink elephant, to a red, yellow and green pine barrens tree frog, Warhol’s aptitude for colour irresistibly pulls the viewer to pay attention to the critical issue of environment. Each animal (African Elephant, Pine Barrens Tree Frog, Giant Panda, Bald Eagle, Siberian Tiger, San Francisco Silverspot, Orangutan, Grevy’s Zebra, Black Rhinoceros, Bighorn Ram) featured had been listed in the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The portfolio stands out as Warhol’s most forward-thinking and pertinent to modern concerns.
The idea for Endangered Species was born from conversations with Ronald and Frayda Feldman, gallerists and commissioners of Warhol, who were passionate about ecology. Though the relationship between Warhol and ecology might at first seem tenuous, an often neglected part of Warhol’s work concerned the natural world such as his Sunset series and Flowers portfolios. This portfolio provides an incredibly strong counterpoint to Warhol’s preoccupation with media and celebrity culture, without compromising the graphic style for which he was most celebrated.
Warhol referred to the series as ‘animals in makeup’: whilst he depicts the exact species that are endangered, they are rendered in unrealistic colours, with the Siberian Tiger possessing piercing blue eyes. The stripes of the Grevvy’s Zebra appear kaleidoscopic, with stripes traced and layered double. Warhol’s dramatic style thus makes the educational and informative an aesthetic, and is a testament to Warhol’s ability to raise the profile of issues. Each animal with flamboyant detail and taking up the entirety of its space commands iconic status in the same way other Warholian icons do; the artist’s ‘makeup’ of the animals is not dissimilar to the way he inverted Marilyn’s eyeshadow from neutral to vivid pink and blue.
With the ever-present threat of climate change in contemporary society, these works are of national and global interest more than ever, and have been exhibited in museums and non-profits such as the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
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