“Cantaloupes I” Portfolio Space Fruit: Still Life. Original color silkscreen, 1979. Signed. On verso “Exhibition print, NFS”.
Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in 1928, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Julia and Andrej Warhola, Russian immigrants from Slovakia. In 1945 he attended a commercial design course at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). After he graduated in 1949 he moved to New York and established himself as an advertisement illustrator for advertisements, at magazines such as Vogue and Glamour. While producing a series of illustrations for shoes, the printers accidentally left out the final A from his surname in the credits. He then officially changed his name to Andy Warhol in 1950. After a decade long career, he grew tired of commercial illustrations and asked gallery owner Muriel Latow for advice on how to continue his artistic career. She told him to paint what he liked most and things that everyone knows, like money and cans of soup. In the ’60s he was fascinated by a number of American celebrities: Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and others, depicting them with the silkscreen technique. The mysterious death of Marilyn Monroe, with whose tragic death the artist felt he could identify with, inspired him to produce a series of prints, to which he returned in later years. In the mid-’60s he devoted himself to more serious themes, depicting a series of car collisions and other accidents and deaths. In 1963 Warhol moved to his famous study, later known as The Factory, where he created most of his art – the Flower series, self-portraits, sculptures, his own film production… The Factory soon became a center for many “super” celebrities and artists, among others the Velvet Underground band and Nico, Bob Dylan, members of the Rolling Stones, etc. Andy Warhol has a place in the history of art as a versatile artist – a painter, sculptor, filmmaker, photographer, commercial illustrator, music producer, writer and even as a model. In 1996 the Andy Warhol museum was opened in his hometown of Pittsburgh. This is reputed to be the most complete American museum dedicated to a single artist. Feminist activist Valerie Solanas made an assassination attempt on Warhol on July 3rd, 1968 and seriously wounded him with a gunshot to the abdomen, which left him in extremely poor health for the rest of his life. He died after an operation of his gallbladder in 1987.
The series “Space Fruit” together with the “Flowers” and “Sculls” series are Warhol’s turning to the classical tradition of still life. Warhol first placed one or more pieces of fruit against a white background and cast harsh light upon them to create exaggerated shadows and light-based contrast. There are some similarities between the still lifes and other series of portraits and consumer products – compositions are essentially choreographed as the artist places the objects and light exactly as he wishes, and arranges them as he wants the audience to see them. We can also see a wordplay with the name – space is a word for an area with the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which things can exist (and move) like these fruits, but it also means a cosmos or universe. The second meaning can refer to the Space Race which became, with the astronauts (who were a kind of heroes), extremely popular in the second part of the 20th century. After getting used to classical representation of still life, we can feel a slight tension between the depiction of nature and commercial mechanical technique. By using shadows and detailed lines on as a compositional element, Warhol gives the fruit more of a realistic quality as they become more three-dimensional. However, the shadows that the fruits create from artificial light, the artist showed in colors that were in a contrast with the vibrant colored layers in the background. This technique gave so many possibilities to experiment with colors and compositions and it is no wonder that it was one of his favorites. The cantaloupes effect a dramatic duality: unsliced, they are weighty moon-like spheres and remote; and when laid open, their pulpy centers have an intimate erotic allure.