PROPERTY OF THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, SOLD TO BENEFIT THE ACQUISITIONS FUND
Throughout his career, Warhol experimented endlessly with different techniques to construct an image, combining painting, print-making, drawing, sculpture and film. He moved freely between imagining objects with multiple layers of mark-making to simplified representations. The line work that defines this car is strikingly simple. Devoid of driver or race track the iconic object of desire floats in space unfettered from gravity itself. Liberated from the superfluous, the automobile exclusively acts as a symbol of post-war prosperity, industrial change, and the American fascination with dazzling objects. The Car Series intertwines Warhol’s Pop sensibilities with subtle religiosity and a fascination with the spectacular, providing us with a provokingly intimate yet simplified sense into his interests, instincts and choices at the end of his life. The process he adopts in Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Grand Prix Car (Streamlined Version) is refined and simple, yet complete, and reminds us of just how good he was at being Andy Warhol.
Itself a star of automobile history, the Mercedes Benz W-196 was the instrument driven by Argentinian Juan Manuel Fango to deliver five Formula One World Championships. While not a car aficionado, Warhol was a committed admirer of ostentatious objects, none more so than the automobile. Andy’s reinterpretation of the Mercedes Benz W-19 transforms the car into an object of modern idolatry, representing the American affection, even love, for mass production. There are no shadows or any sense of context or narrative. He has masterfully simplified the object, just as he had transformed the Campbell’s Soup Cans, Coke Cola bottles, and Brillo Boxes. Unconcerned with the technology that makes such a vehicle function, the viewer is seduced and excited by the strikingly curvaceous form floating in darkness, a sensuous apparition. His images are indirect advertisements for those objects and the corporations that produce them, seducing all.
However, by so completely appropriating common objects that they are absorbed into the art that epitomizes Andy Warhol, he wrests from the image all it has to offer and adds it to his own unmatched legacy. We are reminded of Mercedes Benz with each interaction; yet, it is so familiar that the car in all its sleekness acts as an advert for Andy Warhol. An Icon of automobile history, the Mercedes Benz W-196, is a perfect object to define Andy Warhol. Daring, innovative, unparalleled.
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