John J. Curley. A Conspiracy of Images: Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and the Art of the Cold War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
In the early Cold War, grainy photographic images were published daily in newspapers and magazines to warn an increasingly fearful Western public of the dangers of the conflict. A new book considers how this media imagery penetrated the work of visual artists, focusing in particular on American pop artist, Andy Warhol, and German photorealist, Gerhard Richter.
The starting point for A Conspiracy of Images is a set of blurred surveillance photographs taken by a U-2 spy plane in October 1962, which alerted the Kennedy administration to Soviet missiles on Cuba and led to the ensuing crisis. Soon after, Warhol began to produce screen prints of graphic and distressing photographs and Richter painted blurred distortions of photographic images to channel the ambiguity of the Cold War experience. Professor John J. Curley explores how the artists’ work was inspired by an ominous aesthetic particular to the Cold War, which melded military photography, photojournalism and propaganda.
A Conspiracy of Images is on sale from Yale University Press. You can also read more about the fascinating story of surveillance photography and the Cuban Missile Crisis in ‘The Photographs That Prevented World War III’ in the Smithsonian Magazine.
Image: Andy Warhol, Atomic Bomb, 1965. Silkscreen on canvas, 264 x 204.5 cm. Saatchi Collection, London.