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Art

Love, Sex & Desire: Discovering the erotic art of Andy Warhol

@TomTaylorFO

When David Bowie took on the role of Andy Warhol in the film Basquiat focusing on the brief burning life of the revolutionary artist Jean Michel Basquiat, there is one scene, in particular, that helps to define an understanding of Warhol’s approach to art. In the scene, an unknown Basquiat approaches Warhol as he sits down for dinner and tries to sell him some postcard sketches he has created. “Geez, you didn’t work very much on these,” Warhol regards and is instantly enamoured with them. 

That ethos of ‘you didn’t work on these at all, they’re great’ is one that is expressed in his own efforts. While this is the sort of thing that art loathers point at as a clear depiction of pretentiousness, Warhol always saw the funny flipside. In his erotic works, this notion is clearer than anywhere else. 

Eroticism is usually associated with gaudy works, pushing the boundaries of vulgarity. However, Warhol takes the exact opposite approach and strips down his nude figures to a single line drawing in most cases. Thus, it seems befitting that within his work, he borrows the words of the beat writer James Baldwin to delineate the message that your imagination should do the rest: “Imagination creates the situation, and, then, the situation creates the imagination. It may, of course, be the other way around: Columbus was discovered by what he found.”

As he said himself, “People should fall in love with their eyes closed.” With that in mind, it makes much more sense that even in the act of eroticism, he would take a minimalist approach in an attempt to kickstart the imagination. This might sound simplistic, but even that had a meta point to it, as Warhol opined, “I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.”

While the style of the drawings might give us an insight into Andy, what they depict and where they came in his canon is perhaps even more revealing. The compilation of erotic works predates the Pop Art period, stretching from 1950 to 1962. This was a daring period to depict nude males, but Warhol unflinchingly wrestles with the zeitgeist and soon found himself thrust into its heart as a result. 

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Sexual liberation soon became rampant and that is reflected in Warhol’s very casual approach to depicting unbridled sexuality. Most of the models in Warhol’s works are languid despite their brazenness giving the impression that they are beyond liberated to the point that they can casually bask in it. 

As the Taschen publication Love, Sex & Desire explains, “He mistakenly saw these illustrations as his way of breaking into the New York art scene, underestimating the pervading homophobia of the time.” The illustrations, therefore, remain largely unseen by the wider world. As a result, they are almost even more revealing about the man behind them. Some might even argue that the Jean Cocteau-like sketches display Warhol in his most pure form. 

The images below are from the Taschen publication Love, Sex & Desire. You can out more about the publication by clicking here. 

Andy Warhol’s erotic artwork:

(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)
(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)
(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)
(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)
(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)
(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)
(Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Taschen)

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