What Memes Owe to Art History
Title: Mao (FS II.125A)
Medium: Screenprint on wallpaper
Size: 40.125” x 29.5”
Edition: Edition of approximately 100. Signed in felt pen.
MAO (FS II.125A)
Mao Zedong, a Chinese Communist revolutionary and the founding father of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, is regarded as one of the most important figures in modern world history. Although a controversial individual, he is praised for modernizing China and turning it into a world power by promoting the status of women and improving education as well as other accomplishments. This screenprint was published for a Warhol exhibition at the Musée Galliera in Paris, France. Warhol’s fine detail of Mao’s features enables one to identify the prominent figure even with minimal context. The splash of indigo placed on Mao’s face makes it a signature Warhol painting with the pop of color.
MAO (FS II.125A) AS PART OF ANDY WARHOL’S LARGER BODY OF WORK
After President Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, and the inevitable buzz it created in the press, Andy Warhol was inspired to create a series of prints that would immortalize the image of the Chinese leader, Mao Zedong. Warhol could see a blurry mirror image of US media to Chinese propaganda.There were parallels between the cult like following of movie stars in the West and Mao Zedong in the East. Seeing these in a strange likeness, Warhol produced his Mao series in a fashion reminiscent of his portraits of American celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. These color charged screen prints of Mao were further set apart by the layers of graffiti-like scribbles that were screened on separately, transforming Mao into a world wide pop icon.
Andy Warhol created the Mao series during the early 1970s when he was taking many commissions for celebrities. Celebrity portraits developed into a significant aspect of his career and a main source of income. Other series produced during this time are the Mick Jagger series, Muhammad Ali series and unpublished works of various celebrities such as Truman Capote.
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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