What Memes Owe to Art History
This is an original, unique photographic acetate negative taken by Warhol that came directly from Andy Warhol's studio, The Factory. This is one of the images used by Andy Warhol to create his iconic portrait of 1970s hearthrob and model Joe MacDonald. As Bob Colacello, former Editor in Chief of Interview magazine (and right hand man to Andy Warhol), explained, "many hands were involved in the rather mechanical silkscreening process...but only Andy in all the years I knew him, worked on the acetates." An acetate is a photographic negative transferred to a transparency, allowing an image to be magnified and projected onto a screen. As only Andy worked on the acetates, it was the last original step prior to the screenprinting of an image, and the most important element in Warhol's creative process for silkscreening. Warhol realized the value of his unique original acetates like this one, and is known to have traded the acetates for valuable services, allowing the printing companies to make additional silkscreens of his work.
Joe MacDonald was an impossibly beautiful and highly successful male model in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was a muse for artists like Warhol and David Hockney - and he was also a muse for photographers like Richard Avedon. The dapper MacDonald himself was also a renowned collector of photography. But, as fate would have it, Joe MacDonald, who died in 1983, would become best known as one of the earliest and highest profile victims of AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic in the late 1970s, New York Magazine ran a feature story about how female models refused to work with models like MacDonald, and from that moment on it was considered career suicide for male models to be openly gay. But when Andy Warhol created this unique acetate from his magnificent photograph, Joe MacDonald was the portrait of male perfection - not the face of AIDS. This acetate was brought by Warhol to Eunice and Jackson Lowell, owners of Chromacomp, a fine art printing studio in NYC, and was acquired directly from the Lowell's private collection. During the 1970s and 80s, Chromacomp was the premier atelier for fine art limited edition silkscreen prints; indeed, Chromacomp was the largest studio producing fine art prints in the world for artists such as Andy Warhol, Leroy Neiman, Erte, Robert Natkin, Larry Zox and many more. All of the plates were done by hand and in some cases photographically. Famed printer Alexander Heinrici worked for Eunice & Jackson Lowell at Chromacomp and brought Andy Warhol in as an account. Shortly after, Warhol or his workers brought in several boxes of photographs, paper and/or acetates and asked Jackson Lowell to use his equipment to enlarge certain images or portions of images. Warhol made comments and or changes and asked the Lowells to print some editions; others were printed elsewhere. Chromacomp Inc. ended up printing Warhol's Mick Jagger Suite and the Ladies & Gentlemen Suite, as well as other works, based on the box of photographic acetates that Warhol brought to them. The Lowell's allowed the printer to be named as Alexander Heinrici rather than Chromacomp, since Heinrici was the one who brought the account in. Other images were never printed by Chromacomp- they were simply being considered by Warhol.
Warhol left the remaining acetates with Eunice and Jackson Lowell. After the Lowells closed the shop, the photographs were packed away where they remained for nearly a quarter of a century. This work is exactly as it was delivered from the factory, and the hand writings and instructions on the masking tape, including the word "Chromacomp" are presumed to be by Warhol himself or one of his assistants.
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Signature: Bears Warhol's instructions in black marker to the printer. This work is also accompanied by a letter of provenance hand-signed by the representative of the Lowell family, owners of the famous printing studio Chromacomp that published important Warhol prints in the 1970s
Collection of Eunice and Jackson Lowell, owners of Chromacomp, Inc. (Andy Warhol's printer)
Obsessed with celebrity, consumer culture, and mechanical (re)production, Pop artist Andy Warhol created some of the most iconic images of the 20th century. As famous for his quips as for his art—he variously mused that “art is what you can get away with” and “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”—Warhol drew widely from popular culture and everyday subject matter, creating works like his 32 Campbell's Soup Cans (1962), Brillo pad box sculptures, and portraits of Marilyn Monroe, using the medium of silk-screen printmaking to achieve his characteristic hard edges and flat areas of color. Known for his cultivation of celebrity, Factory studio (a radical social and creative melting pot), and avant-garde films like Chelsea Girls (1966), Warhol was also a mentor to artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His Pop sensibility is now standard practice, taken up by major contemporary artists Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, and Jeff Koons, among countless others.
American, 1928-1987, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, based in New York, New York
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