The screen print Letter to the World (The Kick) (F. & S. II.389), from the Martha Graham series (1986), is one of three prints by Andy Warhol that depicts the distinguished dancer Martha Graham. This is a lively composition showing Graham performing one of her choreographic motifs from the ballet Letter to the World, with her body tilted forwards and her leg in the air.
Recalled as the ‘Picasso of dance’, Graham was one of the most prolific dancers and choreographers of the 20th century and influenced dance worldwide with her pioneering physical vocabulary. Letter to the World (The Kick) is a celebratory image of Graham’s legacy that captures the dancer’s unparalleled skill in expressing emotion through movement. Warhol used a photograph of Graham taken by Barbara Morgan in 1940 as his source material for the print, that was widely published at the time. The appropriation of this famous photograph is synonymous with the aims of the Pop Art Movement and Warhol’s depiction of famous icons through the screen printing method.
Warhol characteristically immortalises Graham’s fame into a screen print of vivid colours, just as he had done in earlier works of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley. Using the screen print method, Warhol depicts Graham in radiant colours layered against a dark background, to give the figure an illuminated presence as though she were on a lit stage. Loose, organic lines accentuate the flowing fabric of the dress and Grahams free and effortless bodily movements.