Forming part of the artist’s pivotal Cowboys and Indians series, the present work is a poignant culmination of Warhol’s decade long engagement with imagery that is at once provocatively stereotypical and integral to American culture and its translation into the impersonal and aesthetically cool visual language of Pop. Adorned with attributes such as the feathered headpieces and patterned ponchos that are insignia of clichéd and romanticised fantasies of the Midwest, the Kachina Dolls are rendered in a starkly contrasting colour scheme that is characteristic of Warhol’s visual vocabulary. In its appropriation of quotidian imagery and in its realisation in a saccharine Pop colourway, the Kachina Dolls relates conceptually to many of the most iconic works realised during the quarter of a century that had passed since the seminal first show of the Campbell’s Soup series at the Ferus Gallery in 1962.
An analytic champion of the psychology of idealisation, Warhol uncovers with the Cowboys and Indians series the contradictions inherent to cultural identity crafting and its effects on a society in need of points of identification. Corresponding to the observations that enabled the Marilyns or the Elvis works, the Kachina Dolls are a brilliant artistic commentary on the struggle for identification and aspiration of the individual in an era of consumerism and mass media in America: “Everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see. When I was little, I never left Pennsylvania, and I used to have fantasies about things that I thought were happening in the Midwest, or down South, or in Texas, that I felt I was missing out on… the fantasy corners of America seem so atmospheric because you’ve pieced them together from scenes in movies and music and lines from books. And you live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in a real one” (Andy Warhol, America, New York 1985, p. 8).
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