Andy Warhol (United States, 1931–1987)
35 3/4 x 35 3/4 inches
John Needles Chester Fund 1983-8-1
After graduating in graphic design from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh in 1949, Andy Warhol soon became a successful commercial artist. In the early 1960s, he became one of the leading figures of the American pop art movement. Warhol used the silkscreen process borrowed from advertising to repeat single images of consumer goods, such as Brillo boxes and Campbell's soup cans, and Hollywood celebrities, including Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. The Marilyn Monroe series, initiated soon after the movie star's death in 1962, exemplifies Warhol's practice of equating commercial goods and celebrities; all are transformed into icons to be painted and subsequently sold at galleries.
Marilyn at Krannert Art Museum illustrates Warhol's deliberately sloppy approach; its forms and contours are flawed by the intentional misalignment of screens, uneven inking, and occasional smears. The artwork shows no trace of expressive gesture or artistic individuality. The image is not a representation of Monroe so much as a mechanical reproduction of her image as a popular icon. Warhol detaches the signifier (the image) from the signified (Marilyn Monroe) to demonstrate the power of representation in the commodity-centered culture of America.
Text by Li-Lin Tseng, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008