Andy Warhol was a Pop artist who is known for his portraits of famous people and the portrayal of American consumerism. He was encouraged to focus on imagery of cows by a pop art dealer, Ivan Karp, saying ‘Why don’t you paint some cows, they’re so wonderfully pastoral and such a durable image in the history of the arts.’
The image of the cow was chosen by Gerard Malanga who was Warhol’s printer. Warhol was a highly experimental printmaker who focused on the range of graphical possibilities in a single image. Manipulating colour to create different levels of contrast was key in his work. This allows him to make typically mundane into something a lot more fun and exciting, such as people suggesting the cow subject was on an acid trip.
The cow image was printed many times for the show at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1966, with a yellow colourway and pasted throughout the gallery – every inch of gallery wall was covered with the printed wallpaper. (rather a shocking experience for viewers upon entrance of the gallery).
“I don’t know how ‘pastoral’ he expected me to make them, but when he saw the huge cow heads ‘bright pink on a bright yellow background’ that I was going to have made into rolls of wallpaper, he was shocked. But after a moment he exploded with: ‘They’re super-pastoral! They’re ridiculous! They’re blazingly bright and vulgar!’ I mean, he loved those cows and for my next show we papered all the walls in the gallery with them.” – Andy Warhol
Although all of Andy Warhol’s artwork is very eye-catching, I am focusing on researching his serial cow imagery as I feel this work goes well with my theme and could inspire me in different ways which could benefit my project.
The vibrant colours in Andy Warhol’s cow prints are fairly relevant to my work as I am starting to incorporate some abstract colours and colour schemes into my farm animal paintings. However as I am unsure of making my work too abstracted as it takes away from the serious topics of my project, the use of repeated imagery could be a crucial area of research for my project. My aim is to create a herd of paintings of goats and sheep of various sizes, no larger than A3 of different colour schemes to demonstrate how many farms there are and to highlight how many animals go through the same experience.
Although Andy Warhol’s cow imagery is the same size when presented on the wall, I feel it still has the same relevance. The use of screen printing to create multiple versions of the same imagery is something I would like to explore if given the chance as it would make my task of creating a herd of paintings easier and it would give me the opportunity to explore colour schemes easily without having to dedicate all the time that a painting would take. I would like to explore other techniques like this if I can’t do screen printing such as linocuts as I already have a lot of familiarity with this process and so I could get started on it a lot quicker.
Information from the video above:
- Signed screen prints of a cow by Andy Warhol, 1976.
- Created for an exhibition at the Modern Art Pavilion Seattle Centre Washington, information is printed on the edge of the artwork – exact dates of show printed on the other side of the piece (November 18th 1976 to January 9th 1977)
- The image was printed again twice in 1971 in a brown colourway and a blue colourway
- The pink and purple colourway of the piece shown in the video is considered to be the most sought after of all versions produced, seen as most attractive and Worholian in the atmosphere and contrast.
- Screen printed on wallpaper making it a fragile piece, use of printing rather than painting it was a comment made about the forms of art at the time. Printing onto wallpaper made it a decorative art rather than a fine art
- Screen printing can create easily multiplied imagery
- Lots of versions – in 1979, he signed approximately 100 of them with felt tip
- Iconic Warhol style cow’s head image, the image of a sub staid pastoral art which Warhol filled with vibrant contrasting colours
- Represents Warhol’s attitude at the time towards the symbols of the art world
- Most of the artworks are now framed in perspex box frames as that was Warhol’s preference, very evocative of the framing of the late 60s to the 80s of Warhol’s work
Andy Warhol’s cow artwork is featured in the text ‘The Presence of Animals in Contemporary Art as a sign of Cultural Change’ which I have been reading for my Art History component of my CPS module which I felt was quite relevant.
“I consider all that representations focused exclusively on the animal identity, body or eyes, beyond the metaphoric representation; e.g. portraits elevating animal to the status of icona, questioning it as a thinking creature: Cow Wallpaper by Andy Warhol (1966)”- Karin Andersen and Luca Bochicchio
How Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery is influencing my work:
The subject of Andy Warhol’s cow imagery is relevant as I am focusing on the captivity of wild animals, including cows and exploring my ideas with an intention to create a group/herd of paintings of cows in different poses looking at the viewer in their enclosures. Although Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery is the same image repeated, there is still relevance there that could be developed to suit my project. As well as subject matter, the colours used are very abstract which is a key component of my work as I am trying to show the irony of people feeling sympathy for the animals in my work when they do nothing to try to help them in the real world. The colour palettes of the serial cow imagery are quite simple yet still effective and this could be a good way to start exploring the colour palettes that work well rather than overcomplicating them.
Ways I am going to experiment in my own work upon reflection of this research:
- Do screenprinting/lino printing to generate a lot of work quickly
- Explore a range of colour schemes – including those in the serial cow imagery work to see how it looks in my work
- Explore whether having paintings the same size or varied sizes is more effective – both have been done with the serial cow imagery and have different impacts, ask my peers what works well