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Meaning & Analysis

Commissioned by architects Johnson and Burgee for their new Minneapolis hotel in 1972, Warhol’s Sunset series is comprised of 142 colour variations. These themes pervaded much of Warhol’s work, as he sought to comment on American capitalism whist creating some of the most iconic and enduring images in the history of Pop Art. However, the Sunset series, which is revered as one of the most expressive portfolios of Warhol’s career, strays away from the territory of celebrity culture.

Warhol’s Sunset series was produced in 1972, commissioned by renowned architects Johnson & Burgee to be installed in their newly renovated Hotel Marquette in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The series consisted of 472 unique colour variations for installation in the hotel, in addition to 160 prints that were assembled in to 40 unique portfolios.

Astonishingly, all of the Sunset prints were produced using only three screen prints: one to apply the background strips of colour, one for the sun and one with a single-colour dot pattern to provide texture. Warhol then inked the screens in a range of colour combinations and printed them with varying registration to create a total of 632 unique screen prints on smooth woven paper.

With this technique the portfolio became widely regarded as the archetypal example of colour serialisation in contemporary art. This allowed Warhol to explore the range of graphic possibilities in a single image, manipulating colour and creating contrasting effects with each repetition. Individual prints in the series therefore evoke varying sensations and emotions based on their colour spectrum.

For example, Sunset (Red) depicts a harmonious mixture of red hues with the dark red sun as the focal point, becoming one of Warhol’s most desirable in the series due to its simplicity. By contrast, in Sunset 85 is perhaps a less conventional sunset with shades of light turquoise, green and beige blending together to create the horizon around the bold yellow sun.