Toni Clayton, American Pop & Modern Specialist
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Departing from his exploration of consumerism, fame and popular culture, this series captures Warhol’s fascination with the human form. Each print in the series depicts an explicit close-up of male genitalia engaged in sexual activity, as indicated by the collection’s title.
The artist prefers to describe these images as ‘landscapes’, instead of nudes, which reflects his interest in the body as a site of artistic exploration and discovery.
The images in this series are rendered in a sketch-like style which contrasts with Warhol’s other artworks which are characterised by his use of bright and bold block colours, layering and thick gestural lines.
In the 1960s Warhol started making explicitly sexual films, such as Blow Job (1964), a short, silent film featuring DeVeren Bookwalter receiving a blow job from an offscreen partner, and Blue Movie (1969), an erotic film which has come to be regarded as a seminal film in the Golden Age of Porn.
Sex Parts marks a turning point in Warhol’s artistic career and the artist’s bold decision to incorporate sexual imagery into his artworks, despite the fact that he would have a hard time selling them to galleries and dealers.
Sex Parts is an important collection that points to Warhol’s sexuality as a gay man, despite the criminalisation of homosexuality at the time in the United States.
Sex Parts is not Warhol’s first body of artworks that are dedicated to the nude male form. The artist’s earliest nudes date back to the 1950s, which predates Warhol’s career as a critically acclaimed fine artist and pioneer of the Pop Art movement. Warhol produced sketchbooks of drawings of the male form called Boy Portraits which included intricate studies of feet, torsos and genitalia.
None of the images reveal the faces of the figures Warhol depicts, which preserves the anonymity of the models.
Warhol explored the male form in other, lesser known artworks, and produced various nudes in the 1950s. These artworks, however, were never exhibited in public as homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time and the images could have risked Warhol being arrested.
A full set of Warhol’s Sex Parts sold for a total US$ 47,500 at David Rago auction house on 24th February 2022. This set of prints are seriously undervalued on the market, no doubt due to their explicit subject matter.