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From his humble beginnings as a commercial illustrator in 1950s New York, Andy Warhol (1928–1987) went on to become one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. A master of graphic imagery and vivid color, Warhol employed commercial techniques to create unique and striking paintings, prints, and drawings. Throughout his career, Warhol exhibited an obsession with celebrity and his works appropriate familiar imagery from popular culture; from photographs of movie stars and singers to newspaper clippings of political riots.

Rebel Without A Cause (James Dean) (from Ads) (1985) is dominated by the iconic figure of actor James Dean. Copied directly from the poster for the classic movie Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Warhol simplifies the figure’s outline to create a stylized mirror image of the original. A faint imprint of the same figure can be seen in the center of the board, creating a ghostly effect. The red background forms a vibrant contrast and is accompanied by billboard-style Japanese characters on the left, delineated in shades of electric blue. A tragic figure who died prematurely, Dean represents both the promise and disappointment of Hollywood. This screenprint is from Warhol’s Ads portfolio, a series of ten screenprints that draw from advertising imagery and feature celebrities such as Judy Garland and Ronald Reagan. Fascinated by these American icons, Warhol’s careful choice of subject reveals the mythologizing at work in contemporary culture. Warhol’s sardonic depictions of famous people were matched by the artist’s droll wit, captured in numerous interviews. “It’s the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it.”

\rAndrews, Robert. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. New York: Columbia UP, 1993. Print.