Andy Warhol’s Camouflage Paintings

Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills

There is a very terrible drama in these paintings, or a lighthearted one. Nothing in them which is not Government Issue, except the colors chosen. They don’t mean anything, nothing is expressed (what is ever expressed, anyway?) beyond certain formal relationships of color and form, line and plane. These often have reference to other artists, Gauguin, Dubuffet, Albers, and of course Matisse, among many others.

The middle range has the iconographic isolation of a Creecy or a Kandinsky. The largest are a tapestry mode, or a Vuillard wallpainting. But what is looked after by the artist is the unexciting relationship, at first, between plane and perspective, and then the two-color perspective indicating an active principle, finally the overwhelming primacy of the descriptive mode as a variable of contiguity, the sort of thing that is an aspect of visual illusion.

A giraffe’s head and shadow over a fried egg, an udder or glove under a branch, such images suggest themselves at first, then there is the Mediterranean Sea, various landscapes, etc. Impossible to know where you are, and that is where the irreducible poetry, unascertainable, but not indeterminate, comes into play.