The early 1960s would bring about watershed artistic achievements by Warhol. A large share of works that were set to pioneer art historically important ideas of his, such as the Marilyns and the Elvis works, were either executed during that period or creatively anticipated it. It was above all in the year of execution of the present works that Warhol moved from a hand-painted technique to a mechanical one, for the first time employing his signature silk screening technique with which he would minimise subjective gesture to arrive at a greater degree of objectivity. Completely drawn by hand, Untitled (Avanti) and Untitled (Imperial Car) are thus uniquely intimate expressions of the artsit. Drawing was a constant part of his artistic practice and as a child, Warhol took classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art winning several awards for his drawings. Drawing was one of the most continuously, privately pursued – and accordingly most revelatory – habits of Warhol’s life.
Warhol had seen works that involved everyday objects by Jasper Johns at the Leo Castelli Gallery, and the present works echo Johns’ and Robert Rauschenberg’s seminal incorporation of everyday objects in their respective artistic practices albeit to conceptually different ends. Purloining representations of objects that occurred ubiquitously in the consumer culture of the sixties and catalysing these through an exceptionally appealing visual language reminiscent of that of advertisement would allow Warhol to objectively investigate the relationship between art and commerce.
The ‘no comment’, matter-of-fact style of depiction of the works render them primary examples of the transition from commercial illustration to fine art that Warhol was undergoing at the time. It is ultimately his past as an incredibly skilled draftsman that would enable Warhol to attain his unforeseen and now iconic visual vocabulary with which he would pave the way for the Pop art that would dominate the decade. In his seminal essay for the Warhol retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1989, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh highlights the significance and stylistic influence that Warhol’s commercial illustrations from the 1950s had on his subsequent artistic output: “a more extensive study of Warhol’s advertisement design would suggest that the key features of his work of the early 1960s are prefigured in the refined arsenal and manual competence of the graphic designer: extreme close-up fragments and details, stark graphic contrast and silhouetting of forms, schematic simplification, and, most important, of course, rigorous serial compositions” (Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, ‘Andy Warhol’s One-Dimensional Art’ in: Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, 1989, pp. 42-44). Created at the very apex of the artist’s transition from commercial illustration to the realm of fine art, the present works capture Warhol’s already apparent mastery of image making and illuminate the fundamental importance of his professional background for his seminal artistic practice.
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