‘Art of our time’
“He was a master colorist, yet that series is black and white.”
Though it wasn’t uncommon for Warhol to create colorless line drawings, “Sex Parts” is rare for being a series done in grayscale.
“Andy Warhol was brilliant at using stunning colors, often to make horrific images — initially — look very pretty. Stop and look at the electric chairs — lovely pastel colors, so you stop and look. If you walk right by a piece of art, you can’t ever think about it, so he uses beautiful colors to get you to stop and look,” Schnitzer said. “In the case of the ‘Sex Parts,’ they’re beautifully drawn, very intimate … but they are devoid of color and I think he didn’t make them for the general public in the way his other series were made and shown in galleries. And maybe he didn’t need the mousetrap of using beautiful color to get people to stop and look at the art, because people who were looking at the ‘Sex Parts’ were not just passing by.”
In addition to “Sex Parts,” Schnitzer reads LGBT themes woven into the “Camouflage” and “Shadows” series.
“The others are far more subtle, and yet just as powerful and in some ways even more,” Schnitzer said. “Camouflage is used for military purposes to hide a soldier from the enemy. But is [ Warhol] also suggesting that we all camouflage ourselves; we all have a public persona and image? And is that image different than what lies beneath? Is he suggesting with the ‘Camouflage’ series that much of his life has been covered up, hiding behind his public persona?”
“Shadows,” meanwhile, juxtapose loosely geometric shapes made of black “diamond dust” with neon and primary colors filling up the rest of the page.
“It’s like being drawn into time and memory, looking up into the sky and pondering life,” Schnitzer said. “Does that relate again to his personal journey? Was his private life always sort of in the shadows of his public life, getting back to his being gay?”
“[It’s] an exhibition that harnessed the power of media to appropriate images, study consumer goods, sex, death, disaster, for a body of work that’s revolutionary. The exhibition highlights Warhol’s obsession with repetition, seriality … and Warhol famously blurred these boundaries between original and copy throughout his career,” said Michael Rooks, who curated the exhibit for the High.
Though many of the prints were created decades ago — the entire first room in the exhibit hall features works Warhol created with his mother — Schnitzer said many of the issues are still relevant.
“He was able to translate the themes that were hitting this country,” he said. “It’s art of our time. It speaks to us of issues that are just as prevalent. … They’re trying to speak to us and have us help shape our values. Who are we? What are our beliefs? What’s important to us?”
And to really understand that, Schnitzer said, we must go discover for ourselves.