Taken from one of Andy Warhol’s largest body of works, the Ladies & Gentlemen series (1975), this screen print Ladies & Gentlemen (F. &. S. II.132) shows a portrait of an anonymous transwoman, depicted in an ultra-feminine pose. Looking up towards the viewer, the figure elegantly touches her voluminous hair with her hand and her facial features are highlighted by blocks of colour.
Given that Warhol was best known for his depictions of world-famous celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Elizabeth Taylor, the anonymity of the subjects in Ladies & Gentlemen is surprising. Until 2014, when the names of the sitters were published by the Warhol Foundation, many of their identities remained unknown although there has recently been a resurgence in interest in finding out the models’ identities. Fascinated by the idea of fame throughout his career, Warhol was also intrigued by the way that identity is performed through the medium of photography and printing. In this series, working with models who were transgender and gender non-conforming, meant that he could explore the complex intersections between performance, identity and gender.
Ladies & Gentlemen (F. &. S. II.132) is made up of a Polaroid photograph taken by Warhol, flattened into a two-toned image, and is then layered with blocks of vivid colour to add an element of abstraction to the work. Contrasting the photographic image with an unlikely colour palette works to present the paradoxes between reality, representation, performance and identity.