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15 Andy Warhol Blue/Green Marilyn from Reversal Series 1979-86 synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas 18 x 14 in. (46 x 35.5 cm.) Stamp signed "Andy Warhol" along the overlap.
Provenance Waddington Galleries Ltd., London Christie's, New York, Contemporary Art, Part II, May 8, 1996, lot 355 Acquired at the above sale by the present owner Exhibited London, Waddington Galleries Ltd., Andy Warhol: Reversal Series, September 2 - 26, 1987 Literature Andy Warhol: Reversal Series, exh. cat., London: Waddington Galleries Ltd., 1987, pp. 32-33 (illustrated) Catalogue Essay “As for whether it’s symbolical to paint Marilyn in such violent colors: it’s beauty, and she’s beautiful…” ANDY WARHOL, 1966 Andy Warhol’s career had already enjoyed two full decades of celebration by the time the 1970s came to a close. His subjects and sitters had shifted from dead icons to living ones; from good friends to those he had never met. Warhol had even begun experimenting with his subject-less (and quite infamous) “oxidation” paintings and the mysterious shadow paintings. But Warhol was no stranger to nostalgia, especially nostalgia for the beginning of his career. In addition, there were very few people he could trust with such sentimentality. In Blue/Green Marilyn (reversal series), 1979-1986, we find Warhol bringing a renewed intensity to his most famous subject, one whom he had immortalized despite their paths never having crossed. He returned to Marilyn at a time when her presence was needed. Warhol’s tenuous position as a figure of major influence at the close of the 1970s was brought about by his own limitations in making art. Though still quite popular as a socialite and a mainstay of the art world, Warhol and his art lacked the groundbreaking power of the 1960s, when the original advent of the celebrity silkscreen had brought with it the Pop Revolution. He was working mostly on commissions, painting portraits of major and minor celebrities and bourgeoisie who hoped to be given the star treatment by Warhol. Always conscious of his public image, Warhol slipped back into the mindset of the innovator, producing Retrospective, 1979. In this work, we see radically divergent approach to an image that had brought him much attention. But more importantly, we witness Warhol beginning to understand the iconographic power of his own work. No longer did he simply portray icons, but his paintings were icons themselves. What soon followed was the Reversal Series, where Warhol employed the negative silkscreen of his original image from two decades earlier. The image of Monroe that Warhol had previously employed was a paradigm of youth and beauty—a publicity still from her 1953 film, Niagara. But in the reversal series, Warhol’s silkscreen is not cast from the patterns of her remarkable cheekbones and the perfect shadow under her jaw, but rather from the picture’s negative space. The result is that of an echo of the previous impression, but yet a figure appearing to be cast from jade or other precious stone, enshrined in the pantheon of legends. The jet black ink upon the painted canvas covers the surface and defines the image of that iconic face, presenting Monroe as a spirit coming forth from the past days of Warhol’s own youth. Her’s becomes an otherworldly grin; it would be a harbinger for the success of Warhol’s final decade to come. Perhaps the most startlingly beautiful feature of the present lot is Warhol’s choice of color. Employing the use of phthalo green, Warhol lends his subject a glow that is both eerie and gorgeous, a combination of sapphire and emerald light. Phthalo green itself, an ultra concentrated hue, does for Warhol’s piece what Yves Klein’s use of ultramarine did for his own: it engenders a vivid immediacy for the observer, where the use of one strong color is far more powerful than the use of several. In this regard, Warhol brings us closer to his subject than ever before: “Warhol’s Reversals recapitulate his portraits of famous faces…but with the tonal values reversed. As if the spectator were looking at photographic negatives, highlighted faces have gone dark while former shadows now rush forward in electric
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