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  • Writer's picture Untitled Art Gallery

Be A Somebody With A Body, 1985 by Andy Warhol

Be A Somebody With A Body, 1985 by Andy Warhol
Be A Somebody With A Body, 1985 by Andy Warhol

Be A Somebody With A Body, 1985; Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas; Dedicated, dated, and signed 'JOHN 85 Andy Warhol' verso on the overlap; Stamped with the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc., stamp and numbered 'A122.0911' on the overlap; Size - Canvas: 8" x 10", Frame 14 3/4" x 18 3/4"; Framed using a black wood frame.

"Muscles are great. Everybody should have at least one they can show off." - Andy Warhol

In the 1970's Andy Warhol was aware of new trend emerging, as he said "So many people have such great bodies today that the sort of lumpy sit around the house flab that used to be normal now looks really bad. You can't go anyplace in America without seeing boys and girls and men and women who look like they have been professional athletes their entire lives." The 1976 symposium at the Whitney Museum entitled "Articulate Muscle: The Male Body in Art" was a presentation of three Mr. Universe types Frank Zane, Ed Corney, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The event was inspired by Charles Gaines, who's popular book "Pumping Iron" was the first serious book written about body building. Gaines helped to persuade the Whitey that the muscular bodies should be seen, not in athletic terms, but rather as living works of artistic creation. Schwarzenegger knew Warhol and stated "I became very good friends with Andy Warhol and used to hang out at the Studio in the seventies because he was a big believer in bodybuilding (and like other hip celebrities) helped get bodybuilding out of the dungeon to make it a hip activity to do." The Whitney show would have certainly been of interest to Warhol who had always been interested in transformation as depicted in his early painting "Before and After." The painting was based on a small advertisement for a plastic surgeon that ran in the National Enquirer in early 1961, and depicts a woman's nose before and after a nose job. The 1980's saw in increase in both gym membership and body building; as being seen as a way to achieve morphological perfection. At the same time Arnold Schwarzenegger had become a major Hollywood star, and Warhol would have realized Schwarzenegger had become somebody with a body!

In the 1980's Andy Warhol began a series of primarily black and white ad paintings whose source material was derived from advertisements, maps, diagrams, and illustrations found in newspapers and magazines. For Warhol, this was a return to lowbrow print subject matter that he had utilized in the 1960's and at the same time served as artistic commentary on American consumer culture. He kept to a monochromatic palette of black and white, thereby retaining the origin and style of the original advertisements.

"Be A Somebody With A Body" was originally adapted from an ad placed in a muscle magazine. Warhol kept the bold graphic text but added thick and fluid brushstrokes. The lettering played against an illustrative confident muscle figure that seems both accessible and yet most likely an improbable realization. The block text is declarative in it's stark black and white, laid bare on the canvas, and allows the viewer to focus on the explicit visual language of the artist. The mechanical printed text with the surrounded brushstrokes allows for a blend between man and machine; thereby subverting the distinction between painting and photographic reproduction. The meaning of the text is an explicit pressure to conform, from a nobody to a somebody, simply by attaining a muscular bodybuilder physique. Warhol, throughout his artistic career, was a master of satirizing commercialization. He also was interested in mass conformation noting "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too."

This particular painting was dedicated to John Reinhold who was a diamond dealer, art collector and a friend of Andy Warhol. One day John gave Warhol a jar of diamond dust, suggesting he could incorporate it into his artwork; which lead to the Diamond Dust series for both prints and paintings. John Reinhold's wife Susan co-founded the Reinhold-Brown Gallery, and Warhol painted portraits of John Reinhold and his and Susan's ten year old daughter Berkeley. In 1981 Warhol gave Berkeley an 80 page leather-bound diary. On each page was drawn abstract forms that slowly progress and develop page-by-page into a beautiful dollar sign. In 2010 Rizzoli published a reproduction of the diary in book form entitled "Andy Warhol: Making Money."

With this image of "Be A Somebody With A Body," Warhol created a Reversal of his initial composition by having the black and white tones switched. He had previously employed this technique with some of one of his most famous works, including his iconic portrait of Marylin Monroe. For this painting the resulting image appears as if the spectator were looking at a photographic negative. The highlighted face, body, and text have gone dark; and former shadows and highlights now rush forward in bold stark forms. The resulting effect is powerful and is able to further activate the painting at a higher level. This is an absolutely fantastic unique work on canvas by the great Pop artist Andy Warhol and would be a great addition to any art collection!


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