Little did I know that I would also be included on an FBI list, probably for this little art project of ours. I would find myself sneaking along the skyscrapers of the Big Apple and darting into a Red bookstore, looking over my shoulder, I’d find a couple of books and brown-bag them and nonchalantly walk out into the broad daylight.
I’d return with the books, heart racing, and Andy would say, half-joking, half-serious, “Were you followed by anybody?” I would answer, “I don’t think so, but if I was, I think I’m a little too old to say I’m a college student studying the Russian Revolution.” Then he’d say, “Did you find any good ones?” I never really did. They were too flat or too graphic. The answer was to go down to Canal Street, into a hardware store, and buy a real hammer and a real sickle. Then I could shoot them, lit with long menacing shadows. And add the drama that was missing from the flat-stenciled book versions. A third dimension of rough outlines would be added and when the paintings were finished they always looked like Amusement Park rides to me. Step right up and ride The Hammer and Sickle. Only 25 cents, if you dare. Not for the weak or faint of heart. It always amused me that Andy, the ultimate Capitalist, and me, the ultimate Libertarian, could be suspected of Communist activity.Ronnie Cutrone, Warhol’s assistant, Hammer and Sickle exhibition catalogue, C&M Arts, New York: 2002.
Politics cannot be banished entirely from this image, of course. But even if Mr. Warhol is not exactly in the forefront of the international labor movement he can certainly claim the status of an experienced (he is 50 this year) and industrious workman. In these new paintings he has taken something from sculpture (Calder’s stabiles, Claes Oldenburg’s giant variants of household objects,), something from architecture (from the towers of San Gimignano to the World Trade Center), and something of painting (spreading the color as a schoolboy spreads jam on his first day at summer camp and come up with an end result that combines imagination with punch.John Russell, “Art: Warhol’s Hammer and Sickles,” The New York Times Jan. 21, 1977.
Most of the people buying the Soviet paraphernalia were Americans and West Europeans. All would be sickened by the thought of wearing a swastika. None objected, however, to wearing the hammer and sickle on a T-shirt or a hat. It was a minor observation, but sometimes, it is through just such minor observations that a cultural mood is best observed. For here, the lesson could not have been clearer: while the symbol of one mass murder fills us with horror, the symbol of another mass murder makes us laugh.Anne Applebaum, columnist and member of the editorial board of the Washington Post, from her book Gulag, http://www.economicswithaface.com/quotes.htm.
“The punk period witnessed a renaissance of tattooing—a practice which visibly asserts our ritualistic ‘uncivilized’ past and in whose pictorial language the skull looms large. Because of a slew of ‘primitive’ and sexual associations, the tattoo is proscribed by traditional western conventions. But tattoos persist, serving to decorate, seduce, shock, scare, to declare nonconformity . . . [Warhol’s] own tattoo-like exhibitionism at the 1977 opening for his ‘Hammer and Sickle’ paintings drew together various structures of power and pleasure: the art world/gallery system brand of capitalism; a communist emblem rendered in paintings titled Still Lifes, in which the shadow seems more real (threatening) association with leather, homosexuality, and gay rights and aesthetics; disco madness as the latest social marketplace and entertainment industry.” The Work of Andy Warhol, Dia Art Foundation, “Discussions in Contemporary Culture, No. 2,” ed. Gary Garrels, Bay Press, Seattle: 1989, p.107.