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Lesson Space Fruit and the Color Wheel

This screen print depicts six orange cantaloupes scattered across the image from the bottom left to the top right. Their shadows are green and stretch toward the right edge of the image. The background is blue, and two large, purple rectangles appear behind the fruit, taking up the majority of the negative space.

Andy Warhol, Space Fruit: Still Lifes (Cantaloupes I), 1979
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
2002.4.19.4

Investigate color theory and formal elements in art using Andy Warhol's print series Space Fruit.

Students use Warhol’s Space Fruit print series to develop a working knowledge of the color wheel and its terminology. Through observation and writing, students examine how the printing process allowed Warhol to create endless color combinations and compositions.

Objectives

  • Students investigate and analyze Warhol’s use of color in his print series Space Fruit.
  • Students develop a working knowledge of the color wheel.
  • Students apply their knowledge of the color wheel through writing activities.
This screen print depicts six orange cantaloupes scattered across the image from the bottom left to the top right. Their shadows are green and stretch toward the right edge of the image. The background is blue, and two large, purple rectangles appear behind the fruit, taking up the majority of the negative space.

Andy Warhol, Space Fruit: Still Lifes (Cantaloupes I), 1979
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution Dia Center for the Arts
© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
2002.4.19.4

About the Art

Throughout his career, Warhol worked with assistants and printers to create numerous print portfolios. In 1977 he met printer Rupert Jasen Smith who worked with him to create the series Space Fruit. These prints demonstrate Warhol’s experimentation with a centuries-old genre in painting—the still life. Still lifes by their very nature are choreographed compositions focusing on shape, color, space, and oftentimes symbolism. Warhol was interested in using shadows as a compositional element. He first placed one or more pieces of fruit on a white background, lit the arrangement  from an angled position so that shadows were cast onto the white paper, and then photographed these compositions. He also used collage and drawing to create the source imagery for the additional screens used in each print. This artwork is an example of a multilayer or multicolor” silkscreen print since each color represents a different silkscreened layer. This printing process allowed Warhol endless color combinations within each composition.

When I look at things, I always see the space they occupy. I always want the space to reappear, to make a comeback, because it’s lost space when there’s something in it.

Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), 1975

Points of View

When I have to think about it, I know the picture is wrong. And sizing is a form of thinking and coloring is too. My instinct about painting says, ‘If you don’t think about it, it’s right’. As soon as you have to decide and choose, it’s wrong. And the more you decide about, the more wrong it gets. Some people, they paint abstract, so they sit there thinking about it because their thinking makes them feel they’re doing something. But my thinking never makes me feel I’m doing anything.

Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), 1975

Vocabulary

Discussion Questions

  1. Look carefully at the print Space Fruit: Still Lifes (Cantaloupes I). How did Warhol use photography, collage, and drawing in this print?
  2. Analyze all of the prints together in the Space Fruit series using the following prompts:
    • What color combinations does Warhol use? Are the colors realistic? Are they appealing? Why or why not?
    • How is the fruit arranged? How does Warhol use shadows in the compositions?

Procedure

  1. Introduce the concept of the color wheel to students and why artists use it. For more information on the color wheel and color theory, visit Color Matters.
  2. Break students into groups of two to four and give each group a color wheel and a color terminology handout. (A word bank of color terminology could also be written on the board.)
  3. Briefly discuss the terminology.
  4. Give each group two Space Fruit cards and a Student Worksheet handout. Instruct students to work together to answer the questions on the sheet.
  5. When all groups are finished, review the questions as a class.

Wrap-up

Ask students the following questions:

  1. What three colors they would use to make a triad still-life print?
  2. What four colors they would use to make a tetrad still-life print?

Assessment

The following assessments can be used for this lesson using the downloadable assessment rubric.

  • Communication 3
  • Creative process 2
  • Creative process 6