Andy Warhol, Oxidation Painting, 1978, ©AWF
About the Art:
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Andy Warhol focused for the first time on the exploration of abstraction. While paintings he made in the 1960s with repeated blocks of imagery forming a patterned surface—and even some early experiments in the 1950s suggest a certain abstraction—his abstract works in the late ’70s and ’80s have no discernable representational imagery. With these paintings, often created in large series that included mural-sized works, the artist dives into the beauty and mood of color and texture in a way he had not done before. Yet, Warhol’s delving into abstraction is not without coy references and plays between what’s real and what’s abstract. For example, the Shadows series are abstract paintings of what is ostensibly a “real” shadow.
In December 1977 Warhol began the Oxidations, iridescent canvases made up of coppery yellows, oranges and greens. Surprisingly, the only paint used by the artist in this very “painterly” work was the metallic copper background. Warhol invited friends and acquaintances to urinate onto a canvas covered in metallic paint in order to cause oxidation. The uric acid reacted with the copper in the paint, removing components of the pure metal to form mineral salts. Some colors developed immediately while others like blue and green formed later on top of the red or brown copper oxides. Warhol and his collaborators experimented with both pattern and coloration by using a variety of metallic background paints and by varying the maker’s fluid and food intake. Critics have made numerous comparisons between the Oxidation series and Jackson Pollack’s famous drip paintings from the 1940s and early 1950s.