Comprising humble source material and monochrome palette, the present lot is a dramatic example of Andy Warhol at the pinnacle of his creative life. Be a Somebody with a Body was conceived as part of a series of black and white ad paintings in the 1980s for which Warhol appropriated imagery from advertisements, diagrams, maps, and illustrations in newspapers and magazines. With images of Russian missile bases, maps of Iran and Afghanistan, and common consumer items such as sneakers, hamburgers and motorbikes, they have a continuing uncanny resonance that coolly remarks on American consumer culture. In contrast to the slick, corporate imagery that he appropriated for his 1984 Ads series, the materials of black and white ad paintings are humble in origin and vernacular in style.
Be a Somebody with a Body was originally adapted from an advertisement in a muscle magazine. The work instilled an ironic tone that is inherent to the artist's distinctive style. Warhol combined bold text with fluid but thick brushstrokes to confuse the distinction between man and machine, redefining both the traditional painting technique and the uniform publication of advertisement. The text in the work is declarative and ironic, while the image is suggestive of an accessible yet highly unattainable goal. Firmly printed block text is rendered in contrasting silkscreen inks - the black and white paints allowing the viewer to focus on the explicit visual language of the artist. The image is laid bare on canvas. The stark monochrome composition further alludes to the importance the artist placed on subject matter and the highly exploitative nature of advertising. Warhol's visionary ability to expand infinitely the repertoire of appropriate content for fine art has been his principal legacy and assures his place as one of the most influential cultural figures of the 20th century.
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