Andy Warhol

Cowboys and Indians

Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board.
36″ x 36″
Edition of 250, 50 AP, 15 PP, 15 HC, 10 numbered in Roman numerals, signed and numbered in pencil lower left. There are 36 TP signed and numbered in pencil, containing the following four additional prints: War Bonnet Indian, Buffalo Nickel, Action Picture, and Sitting Bull. The TP of Kachina Dolls are signed and numbered in pencil lower right.
Portfolio of ten screenprints.
Printer: Rupert Jasen Smith, New York
Publisher: Gaultney, Klineman Art, Inc., New York

Andy Warhol – Edition Prints – Cowboys & Indians

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Andy Warhol Cowboys and Indians is a range of artworks created by artist Andy Warhol.

Given his fascination with appearance over reality, and with the impact that celebrity and carefully contrived imagery can have on the public imagination, it is not surprising that toward the end of his career Warhol turned his attention to the American West. But, as in his other work, Warhol’s point is not to document the reality of the land and people of the West. He is interested in how the idea of the West has had an impact on our perceptions of the West. “Cowboys and Indians” presents a panorama of widely seen images reworked in Warhol’s trademark style. It is the image itself, not the reality behind the image, that is important to Warhol. While these subjects are very familiar, their actual creators are not. We may readily recognize Geronimo, Teddy Roosevelt, or Annie Oakley, but do we know anything about the photographers who originally created these images? Most likely not, but that is exactly one of Warhol’s points. These are images that have been burned into our collective imagination and the person that originally created them does not really matter in this presentation. In many respects, the real person behind the image also has been obscured. All have been removed from the context of reality. They are presented here not so much as people, but as products. One of Warhol’s great talents was to recognize images that have an immediate resonance with the public. Even if one does not recognize Geronimo, one has a vague notion of who this person might be because, at some time in the past, one likely has seen a similar representation.

The American West often has given rise to myths and legends. It is one of the elements that keep the idea of the West alive from generation to generation. Warhol with “Cowboys and Indians” has deftly tapped into that vast reservoir of powerful images that somehow relate to reality, but also mystify it.

The John Wayne image in this series is taken from a publicity still that was made to promote John Ford’s great Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. That movie is about appearance and reality, about the power of legend over the truth. It centers on the story of a famous politician whose career was jump-started after he killed a notorious outlaw, Liberty Valance, in a gun fight. The movie is the politician’s recollection of his early days in the territory before it reached statehood. In speaking with a young reporter, he reveals that his entire life has been based on a sham. He, in fact, did not shoot Liberty Valance. He was killed by a rancher played by John Wayne, who had been a rival for the affections of the woman that the politician eventually married. When the reporter takes the story back to his editor, he is told, “This is the West, sir; when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” An apt description for “Cowboys and Indians” as well.