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  • Provenance

    Private collection, New York; L + M Arts, New York

  • Literature

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol: Camouflage Paintings, 7 November, 1998 – 9 January, 1999

  • Catalogue Essay

    Andy Warhol’s Camouflage paintings reportedly originated when the artist asked one of his studio assistants, ‘what can I do that is abstract, but not really abstract?’The answer that came back was camouflage, which provides both an abstract pattern and an instantly recognisable image with connotations ranging from concealment to masculinity, landscape to nationality.Thus began Warhol’s Camouflage series, screenprinted canvases that he produced in nine different sizes. With its black, cobalt blue, sea foam green and ecru shades, the present work is a fantastic example of Warhol’s talent as a colourist. Likened to Josef Albers’ colour theories, despite their distinct lack of straight lines and hard edges, Warhol’s Camouflage paintings underline the impossibility of seeing one colour as separate from its surroundings. As Roberta Smith of the New York Times explains, “each work demonstrates a series of interactions and mutual effects according to colour hue, tone and position that seems infinitely subtle and varied” (R. Smith, ‘Warhol’s 15 Minutes Tick On, Abstraction Shows’ in The New York Times, 4 December, 1998). In appropriating the military motif, a recognisable part of American popular culture, and making it his own through scale, repetition and colour,Warhol took the work of the Abstract Expressionists to a new level.Thomas Kellein explains that “with the Camouflages of 1986, the famous danger faced by Abstract Expressionism, that of turning into ‘apocalyptic wallpaper’ the reproach Harold Rosenberg had made of the American Action Painters as early as 1952, was taken literally and used as a starting point” (‘Pleasure in Mechanics, Warhol’s Abstract Work’ in Andy Warhol: Abstracts, Munich, 1993 p. 20). With the Camouflages, Warhol overcomes his initial insecurities about the seriousness of his work by reworking the genre into his trademark Pop aesthetic on his own terms. Beyond the New York School, Camouflage’s art historical references extend into the history of landscape painting. Thomas Kellein explores the irony of Warhol’s use of a pattern which is in essence a simplification of nature in his seminal exhibition, ‘Andy Warhol: Abstracts’: “With the Camouflages, a military pattern that helped hide weapons of war in the landscape was brought into play for an abstract, informal flood of paintings. Warhol expanded the vegetable like effect of leaf-shaped sprigs and islands, first onto square, then onto rectangular formats, until the ‘all over’ ideal of the Abstract Expressionists had been brought back to its familiar origin: the water lily paintings of Claude Monet. This historically burdened design was brightened and lightened by colours to such an extent that we stand in front of some spiritually emphatic testimony to abstract painting, ready to lose ourselves in the Camouflages as in a landscape” (‘Pleasure in Mechanics, Warhol’s Abstract Work’ in Andy Warhol: Abstracts, Munich: Prestel, 1993). 

  • Artist Biography

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Known as the “King of Pop,” Andy Warhol was the leading face of the Pop Art movement in the United States 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 like Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities like 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 a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

    View More Works

140

Camouflage

1986
Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas.
203.2 x 203.2 cm. (80 x 80 in).
Stamped with the Estate and Foundation seals and numbered ‘PA85.073’ on the overlap.

Estimate
£800,000 - 1,200,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

28 Feb 2008, 7pm
London