Energy Power is a bold and powerful painting that Warhol included in his Ads and Illustrations series. All the works belonging to the series were created between 1985 and 1986 during the time of the Cold War, which contextually becomes quite apparent in Warhol’s image choices. This painting portrays a hand cradling a symbol of nuclear power, which was a looming anxiety shared by Americans at that time. The quick, gestural lines along with the stark black and white contrast further contribute to the piece’s impact.
Energy Power by Andy Warhol as Part of his Larger Body of Work
It is possible that Andy Warhol’s obsession with consumerism could have been fueled by his beginnings as an illustrator for advertisements in the 1950s. In the mid-1980s, Warhol returned back to his 1960s advertisement style by recreating adverts in his newfound, more confident and matured style. These works were called Ads and Illustrations, and were mostly black and white silkscreen paintings and prints. The images included Russian missile bases, maps of Iran and Afghanistan, common consumer items like sneakers, hamburgers and motorbikes. His process included appropriating old adverts from magazines and fliers, and tracing over them with a crude yet elegant hand-drawn line. These lines enforced the intentionality of the iconic images that he recreated.
Not only was Warhol returning back to his original content, he also began painting again, a medium he had previously considered “dead.” It is possible that his newfound friendship with painter Jean-Michel Basquiat had something to do with this return. This series was much more thematic than his paintings in the past. His confrontational choices of imagery fell into three different themes: war, death and religion as well as his ever-standing theme of consumer culture. Energy Power was shown adjacent to Hamburger, which bared a remarkable resemblance to a mushroom cloud- a scary and powerful image at the time.