Commissioned portraits allowed Warhol not only to perfect his craft but also to become closer to his subjects and the world in which they lived – a world in which Warhol desired to enter. Warhol was a mastermind at making people feel like they were the most important person in the room. That ability allowed him to turn Polaroids or photo-booth strips of people into Polaroids or photo-booth strips of stars. For Warhol, it was not the subject that mattered, it was their pose. In the present work, Warhol coached Judith Green (nee Heiman) through various looks in a Times Square photo-booth. While a regular feature on the New York social scene and an accomplished writer in her own right, Green was no star before Warhol. However, Warhol was able to capture her as we would like to think she viewed herself: a confident, cool, independent woman who was going places.
Judith Green [Three Works] is one of the first portrait commissions, immediately following his famous 36 part work depicting Ethel Scull, which is jointly owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The violet, teal and orange-red portraits were silkscreened onto canvas using enlarged and specifically selected images from their Times Square photo-shoot. Judith Green provided Warhol with just what he needed: an attractive and successful 29-year old New Yorker. She also was just the beginning of what was to come. Warhol would later complete commissioned portraits of a roster of who’s who – from Mao to Nelson Rockefeller, Beethoven to Mick Jagger, Marilyn Monroe to everyone in between. For Warhol portraiture became his way of moving up in the world: “Warhol’s upward mobility was supersonic. Instead of getting the super stars' photo from movie magazines or the Sunday color supplement, he himself quickly invaded their society on equal terms, and could be begged by prospective sitters to turn his own Polaroid camera on their fabled faces in both public and private moods. He had become a celebrity among celebrities, and an ideal court painter to the 1970s international aristocracy that mixed, in wildly varying proportions, wealth, high fashion, and brains" (Robert Rosenblum, "Andy Warhol Court Painter to the 70s" in Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Andy Warhol Portraits of the 70s, 1979, p. 15).
Warhol, who would soon become King of the Culture Industry, mass producer of mass imagery, was the first to frame a subject like a studio still, using a photobooth polaroid camera. Through this technique, Warhol was able to first depict people in his life as celebrities and later celebrities themselves as America uniquely perceives them, with idolatry: as our royalty, as our gods. Even the present work bears the visual vocabulary of cinema. Warhol's heroes and heroines, under his gaze, "become dreams that money can buy" (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, Cambridge 1994, p.189). An early subject, Judith Green paved the way for Warhol’s success. Her fun-spirited poses allowed Warhol an opportunity to capture someone in their true spirit.
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