Death And Disaster : Andy Warhol Essay
The year Andy Warhol began the Death and Disaster series was also the year of the exhibition of his most notable contributions to pop art, the Campbell’s Soup Cans. Throughout his career Warhol simultaneously worked on different series and projects, but in the early sixties the energy of his Pop works contrasted dramatically with his macabre series on violent death. Henry Geldzahler recalled midnight phone calls from Andy in the mid-sixties when he said he was afraid of dying if he went to sleep. “He wouldn’t fall asleep until dawn cracked because sleep equals death and night is fearsome, and if you fall asleep at night, you’re not quite sure about waking up again.” Andy Warhol’s obsession with death began long before the assassination attempt by actress Valerie Solanas, though he would later connect the Death and Disaster series with her. But death was a recurrent theme of Warhol’s art from 1960 on, some years before the assassination attempt.
Between 1962 and 1967 Warhol did silkscreened paintings of suicides, car crashes, the atomic bomb, the electric chair, race riots, and death by poisoning and by earthquake. The paintings are all centered around mortality and death. The variance of the deaths he depicted allows a range of emotion to be exhumed from the viewer; from empathy to disgust.
The series was based on photographs of actual car crashes showing demolished ambulances and sports cars with crumpled and sightless bodies spilled…