Murder and Painting Part 2

I’m still thinking about murder, pain and representation. The Gericault painting posted last week reflected a moment in history painting where the drama of an event was the subject. The painting, The Massacre at Chios, elicited empathy for the victims and rage against their oppressors. As a pop artist Warhol was no less immune to suffering but his visual language required a different approach. Warhol’s Death and Disaster Series included paintings based on January 1953 press photographs of the electric chair in the death chamber at Sing Sing Prison.  American citizens Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed that year for passing information about the atomic bomb to Russia during the Second World War. In Warhol's hands a gut wrenching image of the means of state sanctioned murder evolved into a meditation on our desensitization, our ability consume images without empathy.  As Warhol said, “when you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it really doesn’t have any effect.”

Electric Chair, Andy Warhol, 1964

Big Electric Chair, Andy Warhol, 1967

Red Disaster, Andy Warhol, 1963-1985


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