Plains Indian Shield is one of 10 graphic screen prints by Andy Warhol that make up his Cowboys And Indians series (1986). While the other prints in the series show portraits of Native Americans and famous actors from Western movies, this print features an image of a traditional Native American shield with a colourful design of two large buffaloes preparing to fight. These shields are considered to be important objects within Native American culture, especially those of the Great Plains, representing both physical and spiritual protection as well as a means of displaying family identity.
Warhol juxtaposes the less familiar, authentic Native American emblems in the Cowboys and Indians series with appropriated images of famous actors from Western films. Playing into ideas of the mass-produced screen print and setting the shield against a plain white background, Warhol reduces an entire heritage and way of life into a single symbolic image. Plains Indian Shield is an a historical representation of a Plains Indians artifact that works to create an ironic commentary on popular interpretations of the American West that are seen in Western films.
Using bright, harmonising colours and a reductionist style, Warhol’s print is a beautiful object that celebrates the Plains Indians culture in the style of a 1980s pop icon. By contrasting themes of fame and anonymity, the ahistorical and the authentic, Warhol seeks to unpack the concept of the classic American icon in popular culture.