Andy Warhol



Not on display

Andy Warhol 1928–1987
6 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper and thread
Object: 803 × 694 mm
frame: 1075 × 962 × 25 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008


Cadaver consists of six identical black and white photographs of a medical examination in progress, which have been sewn together with thread into a two by three grid. In the photograph a bearded man wearing a white lab coat and white gloves raises a limb of a corpse that appears to be stripped of skin and possibly decomposing; strips of what looks like flesh dangle around his fingers. Two female figures, possibly students, stand to the right of the man, behind the corpse, and observe the examination, although one of them appears to be averting her gaze. The multiple reproduction of the photograph draws attention to its composition and to its patterning of dark and light areas, as well as to the strong diagonal slice made by the raised limb.

Between 1982 and 1987 Andy Warhol produced several hundred works each comprising several identical photographs stitched together with thread. At the edges of the work excess thread is left hanging, which along with the buckling and scuffing of the photographs caused by feeding them through a sewing machine gives them a sculptural quality. The subject matter of the photographs used for the stitched works varies considerably, from portraits to signs to still lifes. There are a number of stitched photographs by Warhol in the ARTIST ROOMS collection. Cadaver might be compared to Dissection Class 1986 (Tate AR00288) in that both works feature images of death and can be seen to produce an abstract pattern through repetition.

According to art historian William Ganis, Warhol ‘appropriated the stitched photograph concept from his friend, studio assistant, and traveling companion, Christopher Makos’ (Ganis 2004, p.23). Makos had been sewing together his own photographs since 1976. In 1982 Warhol purchased a Bernina sewing machine. Makos recruited his friend Michele Loud to work on Warhol’s stitched pieces as an assistant: she was responsible for sewing together most of the photographs. The exhibition Andy Warhol Photographs at New York’s Robert Miller Gallery in January 1987 showcased a selection of pieces from the series for the first time. The show was praised by critics, and ninety-eight of the stitched works were sold. Enthused by this success, Warhol continued to make sewn photographs until his death a month later.

In that it presents multiple reproductions of an identical image of death, Cadaver may be compared to Warhol’s 1960s Death and Disaster series of screenprints. The Death and Disaster series included images of car crashes, atomic bomb explosions, electric chairs and suicides. In the 1980s, while working on the stitched photographs, Warhol produced a number of screenprints which seemed to make reference to the earlier Death and Disaster series, including numerous works depicting guns. Around the same time he also created screenprints of anatomical illustrations. What distinguishes these screenprinted works from Cadaver, however, is that the screenprints were made using found and appropriated imagery whereas the photograph reproduced in Cadaver was taken by Warhol himself.

Further reading
John Richardson and John F. Stuckley, Andy Warhol: Heaven and Hell Are Just One Breath Away – Late Paintings and Related Works, 1984–86, New York 1992.
William V. Ganis, Andy Warhol’s Serial Photography, Cambridge 2004.

Glyn Davis
The University of Edinburgh
February 2013

The University of Edinburgh is a research partner of ARTIST ROOMS.

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Online caption

Following the gift of a camera in 1976, Warhol began to photographically document every aspect of his life from the people he met to graffiti on the streets. In 1986 he developed some of these images into what became known as his stitched photographs. Created by sewing several identical images together, these works are indebted to his early screenprints in their use of repetition and grid formation. There is an abstract quality to this work created through the brutal cropping and strong contrasting tones. In repeating the image, the abstraction is heightened and is reminiscent of Warhol’s 'Death and Disaster' works of the 1960s. Like ‘Cadaver’ these images of death and violence explore our voyeuristic fascination with mortality and human tragedy.

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