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Flash-November
22

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Critical Review

Based on clippings taken from the media after the assassination of President John F Kennedy, Warhol’s Flash-November series is particularly poignant. The prints all come in edition sizes of 200 and each print takes an image that Warhol obtained from news clippings and photographs that circulated in the mass media in response to the assassination of the American president, John F. Kennedy in 1963. The prints were featured in a book along with text from the newspapers that were circulated in the wake of the tragic event. The title of the collection refers to the phrase ‘news-flash’ which denotes a highly important piece of breaking news. Kennedy himself features in many of the prints with one print, Flash November 22 (F. & S. II.34), using a photograph of his wife, First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

Why is Flash-November 22 so important?

The Flash-November 22 collection was a means for Warhol to explore the complex relationship between society, the media and tragedy. Warhol’s use of news clippings and newspaper photographs is a way for the artist to capture and memorialise the media’s reaction to the assassination.

Warhol explored the assassination of Kennedy in other artworks, and Flash-November 22 marks the artist’s final response to this shocking event. Another notable collection produced by Warhol which focus on the assassination is his series of screen prints of Jackie Kennedy which the artist produced earlier in 1965.

Throughout this collection, Warhol uses his screen printing technique to deliberately flatten the images of Kennedy. Warhol then adds bright and bold colours to the photographs, a signature element of the artist’s Pop Art style. The screen printing technique is a means for Warhol to further explore the role of the mass media in responding to tragic events as the technique is a way of mass producing and circulating images which resonates strongly with the way newspapers and magazines are produced and circulate breaking news.

The collection was controversial due to the way in which Warhol manipulated images of Kennedy following his sudden death. The use of bright colours and a graphic style can be seen as insensitive. Warhol was interested, however,  in exploring how the public has become desensitised to images of death and tragedy due to their oversaturation in the news and the proliferation of mass-news images.

Warhol was renowned for blurring the boundaries between high and low culture and transforming popular subjects into works of fine art that were sold on the art market for six figure sums. By taking images from campaign posters, newspapers and advertisements, Warhol appropriates popular images and elevates them into the realm of high art. In doing so, the artist questions the value of art and what makes these images different from those widely disseminated in the media.

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