"Orange Disaster #5"
acrylic and silkscreen enamel on canvas
New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
gift of the Harry N. Abrams Family Collection. 74.2118
Warhol was preoccupied with news reports of violent death -- suicides, car crashes, assassinations, and executions. In the early 1960s he began to make paintings, such as Orange Disaster #5, with the serial application of images revolving around the theme of death. “When you see a gruesome picture over and over again,” he commented, “it doesn’t really have any effect.” Yet Orange Disaster #5, with its electric chair repeated 15 times, belies this statement. Warhol’s painting speaks to the constant reiteration of tragedy in the media, and becomes, perhaps, an attempt to exorcise this image of death through repetition. However, it also emphasizes the pathos of the empty chair waiting for its next victim, the jarring orange only accentuating the horror of the isolated seat in a room with a sign blaring SILENCE.
Warhol’s death and disaster pictures underscore the importance of the vanitas theme -- that death will take us all -- in his oeuvre.
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