Andy Warhol based his Mao paintings, drawings, lithographs, photocopy prints, and wallpaper on the same image: a painting by Zhang Zhenshi that served as the frontispiece for Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (known in the “West as The Little Red Book”) and was then thought to be the most widely reproduced artwork in the world. Warhol chose the image of Mao — then chairman of the Chinese Communist Party — after reading news coverage of President Richard Nixon’s trip to the People’s Republic of China in February of 1972, an unprecedented act of cold war diplomacy that marked the first act by a sitting American president to the nation, which at the tie was considered an enemy of the state.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, at the Whitney Museum of American Art Through March 31st, 2019.
Euro-American traditions of landscape art tend to work differently from those of Native peoples, often picturing the land from afar as a space to behold. James Doolin (1932 – 2002) carefully studied the landscape to create Bridges (1989), spending a week at the off-ramp from the 110 Freeway to Interstate 5 in Los Angeles. Using principles that originated in European painting, Doolin designed an expansive vista in which a vast space is seen from a single vantage point. The small figure in the foreground — intended as a stand-in for the artist or viewer — also appears in many traditional landscape paintings. By applying these motifs to 20th Century Los Angeles, Doolin refers to the power of historical images in shaping our modern experience of place.
Photographed in the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
Over the course of a career that stretched from the 1920s to the 1980s, Alice Neel painted portraits of hundreds of friends, family members, lovers, artists art historians, writers, and political activists, believing that “people are the greatest and profoundest key to an era.” Seeking to express psychology above absolute physical likeness, she often used exaggerated colors and expressive brushstrokes and eliminated extraneous details in order to capture the inner lives of her subjects.
Neel was a longtime supporter of leftist causes. In the painting of Pat Whalen (1935), she depicts the Communist activist and union organizer for the longshoremen of Baltimore as a paragon of social justice. Whalen’s creased face and expression — along with a copy of the Daily Worker, the official newspaper of the Communist Party USA, resting beneath his large, clenched — suggest both a noble archetype of the blue-collar worker and an all-consuming commitment to the working man’s cause.
Wayne Thiebaud’s interest in investigating the properties of each medium lead him to create a series of works of the same subject using different techniques. In the pictured watercolor of Nine Jelly Apples (1964) he used a wide range of pink and purple hues to suggest the luminous surface of the confection. In the black ink version, he relied instead on the vivid dark and light contrast to emphasize shininess. In the pencil version, however, the exacting precision suggests the brittle surface of hardened sugar.
Magnet TV (1965) is an early example of Nam June Paik’s“Prepared Televisions,” works in which he altered the television’s image or its physical casing. This work consists of a seventeen-inch, black and white set with an industrial-size magnet resting on top of it. The magnetic field interferes with the television’s reception of electronic signals, distorting the picture into an abstract form that changes when the magnet is moved.
Paik’s radical action undermines the seemingly inviolable power of broadcast television by transforming the TV set into sculpture, one whose moving image is created by chance, and can be manipulated at will. Through his alteration of the television image, Paik challenged the notion of the art object as a self-contained entity and established a process of instant feedback, whereby the viewer’s actions have a direct effect on the form and meaning of the work.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
Abstract Browsing 17 03 05 (Google) (2017) is a machine woven tapestry depicting an abstract version of the Google browser’s interface. To produce his Abstract Browsing series, Rafaël Rozendaal created a plug-in for Google’s Chrome Browser. Available to anyone online, it reduces images and text on any website visited to colored rectangles. The artist surfs the web every day using his plug-in and compiles thousands of screenshots, which he then narrows down to a small selection to be produced as tapestries
The tapestries are created at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, where Rozendaal’s screenshots are converted into a file for output by a weaving machine. His project connects layers of machine abstraction: the initial transformation of the webpage exposes a composition optimized to grab our attention, while the tapestry references the roots of computing in nineteenth-century weaving machines that automated the creation of patterns.
In this scene, mermaids, tritons, and marine cherubs effervesce from the sea around the mighty marine god, Neptune. John Singleton Copley derived the image for The Return of Neptune (1754) from an engraving of 1749 by Simon Francois Ravenet, after a design by the Italian painter Andrea Casali. It is among Copley’s earliest works, executed when the artist was about fifteen years old. He may have been introduced to the European print while viewing works in the collection of his stepfather, Peter Pelham, a well-known engraver and print seller in Boston. Colonial American furniture makers had similar access to prints and design books that they used as inspiration for carving patterns, decorative motifs, and geometric proportioning.
Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.