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the broad

Rorschach

Andy Warhol
1984
acrylic on canvas
162 x 115 in. (411.48 x 292.1 cm)

This massive painting is over 13 feet tall and was created as part of a series inspired by the amorphous ink blots.  Developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in the early 20th century, the Rorschach test consists of ten standardized blots for a patient to decipher.  In this series, Warhol invented his own by painting one side of a canvas and then folding it vertically to imprint the other half, inspired by his mistaken impression that patients created these images for doctors to decipher. Said Warhol, “I thought that when you went to places like hospitals, they tell you to draw and make the Rorschach Tests. I wish I’d known there was a set.” Due to this misinterpretation, Warhol’s Rorschach series is one of the few in which the artist does not rely on preexisting images.

Andy Warhol is considered one of the most important figures in postwar art and has had an impact on almost every aspect of the art world. He, along with other pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, brought the imagery and techniques of mass commercialism into fine arts and broke up the stylistic hegemony of abstract expressionist painting in the 1960s. While Lichtenstein used hand-painted comics to develop a relationship between art and popular culture, Warhol focused on photography, silkscreen printing, and cinema to push his avant-garde imperatives. Alongside his art, Warhol’s persona and individual celebrity led to a contemporary status unlike any other artist. His studio, the Factory, became a flashpoint for 1960s counterculture, and was frequently visited by musicians and artists such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and the Beat poets, as well as most of the New York art scene. 
 
Warhol’s silkscreens of the early 1960s are perhaps his best-known works. Drawing on themes such as celebrity, death, and commodity culture, the silkscreens are seen as metaphors for American culture and the fickle nature of fame in a capitalist society. Two Marilyns, 1962, and Twenty Jackies, 1964, exemplify Warhol’s mixture of the techniques of mass reproduction with the older, established painting genres of religious icons or portraiture. Warhol’s Marilyns and Jackies are symbols of their time, bound in their representations. Their relationship to mass reproduction makes these works of central importance to discussions of authorship, originality, and the possible end of art.
 
Warhol also used various programs of abstraction in his painting to mimic and comment on art of his era, especially abstract expressionism, as in Dance Diagram [3] [“The Lindy Tuck-In Turn Man”], 1962, Rorschach, 1984, and Camouflage, 1986, or his famous Shadows, 1978–79, and the Oxidation series. Dance Diagram [3], like the celebrities of the silkscreens, is topical to early 1960s, namely the revival of 1920s and 30s dance steps such as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. At the same time, however, the work allows a deeper reading of the evolving nature of painting as a performative endeavor or, since the work is displayed on the floor, the changing relationship between painting and sculpture.