Andy Warhol Gems 189 is one of four screenprints in the artist’s Gems series. Semi-precious gems, such as rubies and diamonds embody the idea of beauty and glamour that resonates with the rest of Warhol’s work. Gems 189 is a signed screen print that portrays a round cut emerald gem that Warhol heightens with hues of greens and blues. In his still life works in the 70s, Warhol began using hand drawn lines to emphasize the features of the object and its shadow. Gems 189 is a perfect example of this technique. The large gemstone occupies the center of the composition, dominating the print and drawing the viewer’s attention towards the spectacular gem. Black hand-drawn gestural lines add dimensions and texture to the still life, bringing dynamism to the print.
The inanimate objects which become the focus of this series contrast with Warhol’s prints of stars and 20th century icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Nevertheless, the gems in this series are the embodiment of the beauty and glamour that fascinated Warhol and led to his obsession with decadence and wealth. Gems 189 reflects Warhol’s more expressive turn, which came to dominate the prints he produced toward the end of the 1970s such as the Skull and Mick Jagger series. This experimental approach contrasts greatly from the mechanical aesthetic of his earlier work, such as the Campbell’s Soup I series, as well as his more traditional approach to still life drawing that underlined his work as a freelance commercial illustrator in the 1950s.
Gems 189 and other Gems prints reflect Andy Warhol’s personality in an interesting way. He became a collector of jewelry after his success. He often wore elaborate pieces by Cartier or Harry Winston when he attended parties, which displayed his love for precious gemstones. Warhol created the Gems prints later in his life. The Gems series has an autobiographical dimension, in that Warhol had a secret love of feminine things, which he sometimes concealed by wearing his jewelry under his clothes, despite his wealth and celebrity. Warhol’s appreciation of all things decadent, comes across in this series and other works he did around the same time, including After The Party (1979), Shoes (1980), and Reigning Queens (1985).
Photo credit: Andy Warhol, Gems, unique gelatin silver prints, executed circa 1978.