Van de Weghe is pleased to present an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s Gun and Dollar Sign paintings. Made in 1981, these works are emblematic of a decade distinctly American in its ups and downs: Reagan, a movie-star president promising economic revitalization, survived an assassination attempt; “yuppies” embraced conspicuous consumption amid a spike in gun violence and the murder rate.
The Guns, along with the Knives, made contemporaneously, represent Warhol’s most violent imagery since the Disasters, Electric Chairs and Race Riots of the early 60s. Warhol had a personal relationship with guns, having been shot by Valerie Solanas at The Factory in 1968 (an act motivated, in part, by his unwillingness to fund a film project she had proposed). Warhol confronts with ironic distance this object that injured him so severely more than decade before. Slickly produced and seductive, one painting presents the gun as in a dispassionate mugshot, a profile in black on silver. Another canvas contains multiple images overlayed in black, red, blue and gold. The gun seems to spin as if being twirled around a shooter’s finger.
Warhol had an abiding love of money as both object and means of exchange. He started in the early 60s by drawing images of one- and two-dollar bills that would eventually be silkscreened singly and serially onto canvas. By the 80s, as Warhol achieved an unparalleled level of success and fame as an artist, he focused on the symbol of the dollar sign itself, an icon of American capitalism. He silkscreened multiple “$”s one atop the other, in saturated hues that vibrate and pulse against each other. The present exhibition features a dozen such examples of various fonts, color combinations and sizes, from 10 by 8 to 90 by 70 inches, showcasing Warhol’s use of the dollar sign as means to formal invention. Though these paintings reveal no suggestion of virtue or vice, Warhol knew that these works are quite literally currency, declaring “big-time art is big-time money.”
The Guns and Dollar Signs are emblematic of the cultural moment in which they were created, and remain relevant today. Violence and status are key concepts in Warhol’s work; guns and money are a means to power and instruments of control, double-edged swords that can at once liberate or oppress. It is this paradox that makes these works so fascinating. Van de Weghe Fine Art is open from Monday – Friday from 10:00am – 6:00 pm, and by appointment. For further information, please contact Jenn Viola at firstname.lastname@example.org.