NEW YORK, NY.- Christies
presents Marlon, one of the most famous of Warhols portraits of Hollywood celebrities. Marlon, 1966 is an unforgettable image of a leather-clad Marlon Brando resting on his Triumph Thunderbird motorbike from a publicity still taken for the 1953 movie The Wild One. Executed on raw, unpainted linen, the material quality of this painting echoes the rough masculinity of the subject. Coming from the Collection of Donald L. Bryant, Jr., major art collector and generous patron to many American institutions, Marlon is silkscreened with such rare and pristine clarity that every aspect of Brandos intensity and strength is conveyed.
According to Brett Gorvy, International Head, Chairman for Christies Post-War and Contemporary Art, Alongside his iconic portraits of Elvis Presley, Warhols image of Marlon Brando exudes a raw sexuality and intense power rarely found in his work. In this painting, Warhol has created the archetype of cool and glamour.
With his unconventional and deliberately popular selection of subject matter, Warhol repeatedly rocked the art world. Focusing on mass produced objects such as Campbell soup cans and images of celebrities as his subjects, Warhol created an engaging canon of images that managed to brashly and boldly enshrine 'Low Art' symbols in 'High Art' formats. In Marlon, Warhol has opted for the earthier quality of raw canvas on which to silkscreen his iconic image of Brando at his prime.
The exposed linen canvas accentuates the rough and ready quality of the image, with Brando at his best manly and brooding, with the accoutrements of the 1950s counter-culture. The raw canvas both removes the work from the world of painting yet paradoxically emphasizes the traditional support and links the work with high art in a way that Warhols primed or colored canvases avoid.
Through the exposed canvas and the carefully controlled image of the manly Brando, Warhol manages to combine disparate elements in a way that mocks the macho culture of Abstract Expressionism. Both in terms of artistic process and self-expression, Abstract Expressionism and Pop were diametrically opposed. Here, the canvas reminds the viewer of the myriad artistic acts that could have taken place on this support. However instead of the drips left by Pollocks swooping actions or some other abstract product of manly exertions, there is the controlled print image of Marlon Brando. Warhol has removed himself as much as possible from the artistic process and yet the bare canvas is an explicit reference to it. At the same time, the leather-clad trouble-maker pictured is a reminder of the culture of machismo that was so intertwined with the Abstract Expressionists, and which Warhol would later satirize.
Beyond the surface of satire however, Warhol highlights his own desires for the rebellious biker. The almost palpable sense of desire with which Warhol has filled Marlon, reflects a sense of acquisitiveness which can be seen as a common background to all his works. Warhol lusts for Brando here, and compels the viewer to join him in this urge. Thus Brando is transformed into an object of desire in a sense that echoes capitalism. Warhol's use of this movie-poster image has become a work of devotion, a modern equivalent to the religious paintings of the Old Masters featuring a new god, and yet at the same time the very act of taking this commercial image becomes a wry criticism of the capitalist process and of the factory era. By taking the circulated publicity picture of an actor, someone who has adopted a guise, Warhol has commented on the superficiality of the world of sales, on both the importance and hollowness of appearances.