"We review the new documentary, and showcase Warhol’s impact on modern culture through three artists: Deborah Kass, Jeff Koons and Glenn Ligon"
The flat, pop-coloured shapes, the grids of familiar faces, the variations on a colour scheme; Deborah Kass’ early work has Warhol’s visual language running through its veins. But there’s a twist, an important one. Kass focused on the deft appropriating and reworking of signature styles of leading 20th-century male artists. Part searing critique, part homage, her interest was in confronting the glaring omission of leading women in art history, and in society more broadly.
In 1992, Kass began her ‘Warhol Project’, in which she subverted the pop artist’s ubiquitous celebrity paintings, revising these groupings with self-portraits and images of her own heroines, such as Gertrude Stein, Barbra Streisand and Cindy Sherman.
Blue Deb, at first glance, resembles a piece from Warhol’s 1960s series ‘Liz’ depicting the actress Elizabeth Taylor. But this painting, like many others, outwits the viewer’s complacency towards Warhol’s work – inimitable he may be, but he’s not exempt from reinterpretation.
By drawing on, and rewording the visual language of the past, Kass asks us to consider an alternative storyline in 20th-century art, in which the work of female artists was iconised as much as men’s, and the ‘tragic muses’ had autonomy. As she told filmmaker John Waters in 2007, ‘It’s always been my impulse to use art history as almost a ready-made.’