Warhol contributed this small print to a portfolio of work by ten artists. It was published the year after the non-violent direct action by civil rights demonstrators seeking to remove racial segregation in Birmingham Alabama. While the term ‘race riot’ was commonly used at the time, it is more accurate to refer it to as a race protest. Warhol used a photograph of a police dog attacking an African American man. It was taken by Charles Moore and first published in Life magazine on 17 May 1963. The painting presents the oppression of African American citizens and police brutality. It brings up questions about Warhol’s decision as a white artist to depict Black suffering. Was the image of violence being used to shock or to promote social commentary, attempting to bring news imagery into the rarefied space of the gallery?
Gallery label, August 2020
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