Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Painting

The surface is very flat. It doesn’t have the overlapping flecks of paint of the Pollock that it imitates. The greens settle on the surface of the copper like no paint ever would – they pattern into smaller and smaller droplets – I say droplets not because the impressions are round, but because they are liquid-like. They settle like water on wax, organic yet systematic. You are drawn into the surface, the detail continues, the marks smaller and smaller. The flat surface changes in the light as the copper reflects and the green absorbs. That color combination is so appealing – it reminds us of those once shiny buildings and sculptures that have weathered over time, with little pockets of shiny copper hidden on a dark green roof.

This late series of Warhol’s is also known as the Piss Paintings – the materials here are copper acrylic paint and urine. Legend goes that Warhol would recruit heavy hitters like friend Victor Hugo to come over to his studio to pee on his copper canvases. Literally, that’s what it is. The urine reacts with the copper in the paint in unpredictable ways and then becomes a painting. Warhol would experiment with different participants and different eating habits, but that was the principle.

The making is simple, but the idea is complicated. The disrespect hangs in the air. Especially after you have leaned closer to admire the details. But the painting is still beautiful – what does that mean? The work is more than just a ruse – there is something elemental about your relationship to the object and the simplicity of its making, it accesses an aesthetic and material side of Warhol though it is, as usual, masked in concept.

– Margaret 
Andy Warhol, Oxidation Painting, 1978
Urine on metallic pigment in acrylic pigment on canvas, 76 x 52″
Currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This entry was published on November 16, 2012 at 12:01 am and is filed under Currently on View, Painting. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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