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An original screenprint on Strathmore Drawing paper by American artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987) titled “Birmingham Race Riot”, 1964. This is the third published limited edition print Warhol ever made. Issued unsigned. Limited edition: 500, plus 10 AP’s. Comes from the ‘Ten Works by Ten Painters’ portfolio. Printed by Ives-Sillman, Inc. & Sirocco Screenprints both in New Haven, CT and published by Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT in 1964. Ives-Sillman chopmark/blindstamp lower right. Each entire portfolio was numbered on the colophon page. The other 9 artists, selected by Samuel Wagstaff, who contributed to this portfolio were George Ortman, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, Stuart Davis, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Poons, Robert Indiana, and Ad Reinhardt. Other examples of this work are in many permanent museum collections including The MET, MoMA, Tate, Whitney Museum of American Art and others. Provenance: private collection – Boston, MA. Reference: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1987, Feldman and Schellmann, (FS II.3), pg. 59, 212. Framed in a contemporary black moulding, floated over archival matting from Holland. Has frame-space so the screenprinted surface is protected by not touching the glass. Framed with the most expensive glass – Artglass AR 92 non-reflective with 92% UV protection. Framed space: 26″ x 29.75″. Sheet size: 20″ x 24″. Some light edge wear at corners, scuffing to surface, and light toning – typical light signs of handling associated with age. Otherwise, generally in good condition.
Andy Warhol made very few alterations to the source material for this screenprint—a photograph from Life magazine by Charles Moore (in fact, the photographer would later sue the artist for unauthorized use of his work). Warhol simply enlarged and reversed the original image, which was published in a May 1963 photo essay about police dogs attacking civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. Although several of Warhol’s series of the early 1960s touched on current events, the subject of “Birmingham Race Riot” (and thirteen related silkscreen paintings, made subsequently) is uncommonly political for him. Yet despite the photograph’s disturbing depiction of an African American man besieged by police dogs, Warhol’s deadpan presentation of the appropriated photograph makes the tone of his work ambiguous and difficult to gauge.
The 1964 screenprint “Birmingham Race Riot” (FS II.3), signaled the future direction of his prints in its combined use of photography and silkscreen. The image first appeared as part of the ‘Disaster’ series, paintings of race riots, car crashes, suicides, and negative takes on the American dream begun in 1963. Warhol possessed an uncanny ability for selecting imagery, largely derived from existing news and publicity photographs, capable of conveying extraordinary content.
The riots at Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963 were notorious across America, and with this wide publicity the event was one of the climaxes of the Civil Rights Movement. Supporters of Martin Luther King, protesting at segregation at lunch counters, were attacked by the police with dogs and water hoses, and King himself was arrested. Warhol contributed this small print to a portfolio of work by ten artists, published the year after the riot. The image is changed only in size and status from a newspaper photograph. In the form of a print in this portfolio it commemorates the tensions in American popular life at the time, and forcefully illustrates the distance of the arts from such events.