Andy Warhol
andy warhol race riot
Andy Warhol Foundation

Race Riot
Andy Warhol

Synthetic polymer and silkscreen inks on paper
30in x 40in.

Executed circa 1964, this work is unique

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Forming an significant part of Warhol's celebrated Death and Disaster series, the artist's Race Riot pictures are unique in Warhol's oeuvre in depicting the violent response of the authorities to the Civil Rights movement that came to prominence in the United States in the 1960s.

On the 3 - 5 May 1963 Eugene ("Bull") Connor, director of public safety in Birmingham, Alabama sanctioned the use of police dogs and fire hoses against civil rights demonstrators. This violent response was the culmination of two months of sit - ins and demonstrations in Birmingham during the spring of the year. Under the heading "The Dog's Attack is the N###o's Reward" Life magazine published three photographs by Charles Moore that showed successive moments in an encounter between a civil rights demonstrator and the Birmingham police dogs. Warhol variously used all three photographs in his Race Riot pictures, further cropping Moore's to emphasize the violence of the dog's attack.

This series represented a rare foray on Warhol's part into the world of contemporary US politics. The Race Riot pictures form part of a series of paintings Warhol referred to as "Death in America" - a title he intended to use for his forthcoming show at the Sonnabend gallery in Paris.

Because of the clear political overtones of the Race Riot pictures, many viewers have often interpreted these works as "liberal statements" from the artist, but others such as Claes Oldenburg have pointed out that ultimately these works display indifference on the artist's part. Warhol agreed with Oldenburg "it is indifference" he told his fellow Pop artist and when asked if it wasn't significant that he had deliberately chosen this particular photograph of a "hot" subject, the firmly apolitical Warhol caustically replied that "it just caught my eye".

Further Reading: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne

Further Reading: Andy Warhol Commerce Into Art Hardcover Book (1990).

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