Map of Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases (Positive)

Create your first list.

A way to share and manage lots.

  • Provenance

    The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
    Stellan Holm Gallery, New York
    Gagosian Gallery, New York
    Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2007)
    Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2014

  • Exhibited

    New York, Van de Weghe Fine Art, Andy Warhol: Black & White Paintings 1985-86, October 14 - November 23, 2005
    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Cast a Cold Eye: The Late Work of Andy Warhol, October 25 - December 22, 2006, p. 181 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "The ghosts of Warhol's past reside within these canvases...More than much of his recent work, these canvases give evidence of Warhol's continued evolution as an artist. They all give you something to look at, a combination of decoration and provocation that stops you in your tracks, however briefly. They all have a nervy, challenging air that dares us to take them seriously while also leaving us little choice but to do so." Roberta Smith

    Executed in 1985-1986, Map of the Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases (Positive) exemplifies Andy Warhol’s return to the subversive content and style of his earliest work in very last years of his life. Executed in the waning years of the Cold War, the depiction of U.S.S.R. missile bases reads initially as banal, then as chilling as its ominous implication as a document of war becomes clear to the viewer. An iconic example from Warhol’s Black-and-White Ads and Illustrations series, the present work belongs to the discrete sub-group of canvases based on a print media illustration of a U.S.S.R. missile bases map. While Warhol explored the imagery on the more intimate format of a16 x 20 inch canvas, here he has magnified it to an epic scale, with a sly nod to the grand tradition of war painting. Map of the Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases (Positive) is one of the few monumental paintings from this body of work, another example of which resides in the collection of the Tate Modern, London, and another recently featuring as a highlight of the acclaimed retrospective Andy Warhol, From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which was key in shedding new light on the continuum between Warhol’s early and late work.

    Consisting of silkscreen reproductions of newspaper clippings, the Black-and-White Ads and Illustrations represented Warhol’s return to both his origins as an illustrator in the late 1950s, and his hand-copied advertisements and cartoons of the early 1960s. It was through his collaboration with Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1983 that Warhol returned to brush-painting after years of abstinence; a commission by gallerist Ronad Feldman in 1984 for a series of paintings and prints based on ads sowed the seeds for his black and white drawings and paintings. Created by tracing advertisements and newspaper illustrations by hand and then silkscreening the imagery onto canvas, these paintings are lent a graphic, hand-painted appearance reminiscent of his early works. As Roberta Smith indeed noted when reviewing works from this series at Warhol’s posthumous exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery, “They sum up the elasticity of the Warhol formula: his combination of iconoclastic taste and seductively conventional touch, his brilliant use of a silkscreen technique to both disavow and approximate the look of handmade drawings and paintings,” (Roberta Smith, “7 of Warhol’s Final Paintings”, The New York Times, October 7, 1987, online.)

    Though Warhol turned towards the seemingly mundane imagery of newspaper advertisements and illustrations with this series, his choice of imagery reveals a deep exploration of themes of war, death and religion. If Warhol had obliquely explored the rise of communism with his Hammer and Sickles series in the late 1970s, here he unflinchingly confronts the viewer with the Cold War crisis in the wake of Ronald Regan’s “evil empire” speech of 1983, in which he called for a “Strategic Defense Initiative” to “defend America from Soviet Missiles.” The sinister implications of the missile map recall Warhol’s famous Atomic Bomb, 1965, which presents the seemingly endless repetition of a newspaper image of an exploding hydrogen bomb in saturated blood red. While harkening in theme back to his Death and Disaster series from the 1960s, Warhol with the present work zooms in on the threat of the atomic bomb in a more clinical fashion – confronting the viewer with the horrifying threat of nuclear war within the form of an innocent, comic book-like drawing. Indeed, it is only upon closer consideration that the viewer recognizes the ominous portent underlying what is essentially a document of war. The stark black and white schema underpinning this series not only points to its origins in print media, but also hints at the ethical and political poles of good and evil that Warhol explored in the series through “positive” (white) and “negative” (black) variations of the theme.

    In the deadpan emptiness of its appropriation, absent of any commentary from the author, Map of the Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases suggests a creeping malaise running underneath the artificial American skin – it implies a society blind to the political reality and potential violence of the Cold War. As Warhol wrote: “America always begins with Moods… But the trouble with moods is that they’re always changing, sometimes really fast… That’s why the American government and the American media are so great. The President, the news magazines, television – they only want to capture America’s mood at the moment, reflect it back, and tell anyone who’s not in the same mood to get over it and start feeling American like everyone else” (Andy Warhol, America, New York, 1985, p. 152). At the heart of this ambivalent commentary is not only the thought that the government is duplicitous in manipulating national feeling, but that to “feel American” is to be homogenous – a concept at the core of Warhol’s varied depictions of postwar American society.

  • Artist Bio

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

    Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

     

    View More Works

155

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection, New York

Map of Eastern U.S.S.R. Missile Bases (Positive)

stamped by the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York, initialed "VF" and numbered "PA10.583" on the overlap
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
58 x 80 in. (147.3 x 203.2 cm.)
Executed in 1985-1986.

Estimate
$700,000 - 1,000,000 

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
jmccord@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue