Mao 97 by Andy Warhol is a part of his notorious Mao series, which sparked up controversy. Warhol presents Mao Zedong, the Former Chairman of the Communist Party of China, in a style reminiscent of his celebrity portraits. He fuses together the image of totalitarian propaganda and the colors found in his celebrity art to demonstrate the cult of personality surrounding the Chinese ruler. He uses bright colors and applies them in a makeup-like fashion as a form of personalization. This is a sharp contrast to Communist ideologies, which shunned individualism. This juxtaposition is taken further by the number of variations Warhol made of this image.
Mao 97 by Andy Warhol as Part of His Larger Body of Work
Warhol created the Mao series during the early 1970s when he was taking many commissions for celebrities. Celebrity portraits developed into a significant aspect of his career and a main source of income. However, Warhol was equally inspired by political figures throughout history, which promoted his interest in Mao Zedong. He also created images of leaders such as Alexander the Great, Vladimir Lenin, and Queen Elizabeth. Other series produced during this time are the Mick Jagger series, Muhammad Ali series and unpublished works of various celebrities such as Truman Capote.