Can Anything Be Performance Art?
Title: Mao (FS II.94)
Medium: Screenprint on Beckett High White Paper.
Size: 36″ x 36″
Edition: Edition of 250 signed in ball-point pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on verso. There are 50 AP signed and numbered in pencil on verso; some signed and numbered in ball-point pen. Portfolio of 10.
Warhol presents Mao Zedong, the Former Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in a style reminiscent of his celebrity portraits. He fuses together the image of totalitarian propaganda and the colors found in his celebrity art to demonstrate the cult of personality surrounding the Chinese ruler. He uses bright colors and applies them in a makeup-like fashion as a form of personalization, a sharp contrast to Communist ideologies, which shunned individualism. This juxtaposition is taken further by the number of variations Warhol made of this image.
MAO 94 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 United States media to Chinese propaganda. There were parallels between the cult like following in the West to movie stars 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 screenprints of Mao were further set apart by the layers of graffiti-like scribbles that were screened on separately, transforming Mao into a worldwide 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 Other series produced during this time are the Mick Jagger series, Muhammad Ali series and unpublished works of various celebrities such as Truman Capote.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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