After a trip to Italy in 1976, Andy Warhol designed his “Hammer and Sickle” series, which featured an insignia found on Soviet flags as the most prevalent form of graffiti in public areas. It represented the unification of industrial and rural workers’ interests under communist leadership. The recurring graffiti sign in Italy, a democratically governed country since the conclusion of World War II, seemed more “pop” than “political” to Warhol. When Warhol then returned to the United States, he requested his studio assistant Ronnie Cutrone to look for source images of the sign. Warhol desired something more distinct from the replicas seen in book adaptations, which looked more like the Soviet flag itself and felt flat in appearance. Cutrone then bought a double-headed hammer and a sickle from a local hardware shop and photographed them from various angles with dramatic shadows and theatrical lighting. Cutrone’s photos then marked the beginning of Warhol’s silkscreened art series.
His paintings were then shown at the Castelli Gallery in New York City in 1977 with the enigmatic title “Still Lifes.” While Warhol denied any political links to his art, he was well aware of the what the power of symbols could pertain to after the Cold War’s cultural atmosphere. From the early 1940s to the 1980s, the war between superpower countries America and the Soviet Union, was marked by a climate of tension and joint perceptions of animosity between the East and West, capitalism and communism, which resulted in the excessive accumulation of arms, nuclear warheads, and tremendous influence peddling around the world.
Earlier this month, White Cube has recently set up an online viewing salon that delves into one of Andy Warhol’s lesser-known pop art series. The gallery then described that Warhol was able to produce paintings that bordered on abstraction by leveraging the medium of photography, which is more typically associated with objective documentation nowadays.