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Warhol began making silkscreens of an empty electric chair in 1963, a time when the ethics of capital punishment were being fervently debated in America. Designed to make killing as efficient and impersonal as possible, the electric chair unites Warhol’s fascination with death and with mechanised production. He presents these bleak images in a deadpan manner, without social commentary or moral consolation. The emotional distance is heightened by his audacious use of colour, which is at odds with his morbid subject matter.

February 2016