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“Physiological Diagram” Artwork by Andy Warhol

The artwork that I selected for this assignment was created by Andy Warhol in the middle of the 1980s (1984-1985) and titled Physiological Diagram. This piece is a synthetic polymer paint on canvas. It was produced as a part of Physiological Diagram series, which presupposes that it is tightly connected with several other works developed by the same author.

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This very painting seems to be rather abstract because it does not reveal any particular person or object. Nevertheless, it is a portrait focused on the part of a human body. The image is not personalized and does not look real at all. It is abstracted so that it resembles a picture that can be found in an ordinary anatomy book but appears to be even more simplified. It is possible to conclude that the individual in the composition is a man due to the characteristics of the body, such as masculine shapes. This person is placed in the middle of the canvas. He is shown without a head and a half of his legs. No details, such as hair, veins, shadows on the skin, are included as well. In this way, more attention can be paid to the center of the body – the stomach – that is marked with a spiral. The pictured body is orange while black is used for contours and details, including breasts, the sights of pelvic bones, and the spiral on the stomach. The background of the artwork is not painted so viewers can observe the white color of the canvas. However, its left side is partially green; it seems that Warhol started working but stopped abruptly, leaving uneven edges with his wide brush or roller. No in-between tints are used in this work, and bright colors predominate, which is typical for Warhol.

Personally, I believe that this artwork can be considered approximately symmetrical. First of all, the human body is placed in the center of the canvas; even though the green color is added on the left, it does not make the painting look asymmetrical. Secondly, proportions of the body parts are not altered. Just as in the case of a real person, the sides of the organism resemble each other but are slightly different, as the right one is a little bit larger. I consider that some viewers may also notice some insights of radial balance in this work, because of the presence of a spiral in the center of the canvas. However, the rest of the elements do not provide an opportunity to perceive Physiological Diagram this way. I believe that the balance of this painting can be improved if the background is colored completely.

The artwork consists of different types of shapes even though it is rather minimalistic. Natural shapes can be observed in the depiction of a human body, as they look typical for any individual. Geometrical ones can be found in the center of the canvas – a spiral and dots. Finally, abstract shapes coincide with the edges of the green background. A shape of a human body has the black border that makes it look less real but more distinct. The upper and the lower borders are not traced, which makes viewers believe that Warhol was interested in the whole body but decided to enlarge its particular part so that the rest did not fit the canvas. The shape of the background can be interpreted in several ways. It may presuppose that the artwork is left unfinished or that Warhol changed his mind and decided to use unpainted canvas. Some symbolic meaning of this element can exist, but it will be discussed further in the paper.

The composition of this artwork does not show a wide range of values because only three colors are used, and shades are omitted. Visualizing it as black-and-white, it is possible to claim that the darks are located in the center of the work and are used to attract attention to the most important elements of the composition. The light background allows Warhol to use orange as a dark color. With the help of the black color, the artist outlined the shape of a man’s body and added a spiral on the abdominal region. In this way, the concentration of the darks increases in the center of the artwork while the lights seem to surround it. Thus, it appears to be a low key composition where few darks are used to emphasize the artist’s message.

The picture is partially unified. The green color on the left side of the canvas looks abrupt. However, the image of a human body and elements that are included in it look as a whole due to the presence of a borderline. This organization was planned by the author, so the elements do not look chaotic. The use of closure can be observed in this picture as the human body is not fully seen. The law of proximity can also be observed as those elements that are included in this shape turn out to be connected just to their close position. In this way, lines and dots make breasts that are closely located to the spiral and curves of the pelvic bones, the combination of which creates a torso.

The first thing that I look at in this composition is a man’s body. This very object is the most colorful because it combines orange and black colors that attract much attention on a pale background that does not include any other concrete shapes or forms. It is also the largest and the most detailed element on this picture. Moreover, the contrast created with the help of color grabs viewers’ attention. The black bordering line makes this object look isolated. Additional marks made on it and little details carry more visual weight than the rest of the work and make the audience analyze them. The second thing I look at in this composition is a spiral. Initial focus on the body makes me explore this part of the picture and find a unique element that I do not expect to observe. After that, I notice the left side of the picture that is painted green because it is the last colorful thing and it is rather large. Personally, I believe that the artists used bright colors to lead me through the design. The value of shape should not be overlooked as well.

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The image of the human body does not include any marks, but the edges of the green background allow recognizing visible brush or roller marks. Nevertheless, it can hardly be concluded whether they were used to work on the rest of the piece. Synthetic polymer paint is used for the creation of Physiological Diagram. The line plays an important role in the artwork because it allows distinguishing the body and its elements.

The composition does not have any actual textures that can be observed by the viewers. The only texture that may be discussed is a visual one, and it deals with the representation of a human body because different shapes can be identified. For instance, Warhol could have included details of skin. However, this element is not present because it is not important for the piece.

A complementary color scheme is used in this artwork, which can be proved by the presence of contrasting colors: warm (orange), cool (green), and neutral (black). The selection of these colors is important because it emphasizes that the work is created to spread some meaning but not to share the beauties of a man’s body. Moreover, the color scheme has a symbolic meaning that is worth discussing.

The sense of space and depth are not created. The artwork appears to be two dimensional and simplified. Even the background is almost uncovered.

This work was created in the middle of the 1980s. With the artwork, the artist managed to depict issues that pertained society at that time. In particular, Warhol’s interest in physiology can be associated with the increased rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence that affected the whole country adversely and made people more conscious about their health condition. In addition to that, the artist started acknowledging the changes in his own body that were caused by aging. Warhol always revealed his respect for the physical beauty of things and people he depicted but this artwork focused on the message. The spiral on the picture reveals that he pays much attention to this abdominal region that was affected at the end of the 1960s when the man was shot in his stomach. This spiral seems to unite his scars, making them look like a target. Thus, the artist’s Physiological Diagram includes those places where he was injured and encourages viewers to think about their bodies and the way they are affected. The use of orange color reveals that his body was full of positive emotions and energy that were adversely affected by black bullets. A partially green background shows that the man is still alive, but he is not very active anymore. The color of growth and rebirth stops abruptly to emphasize aging and make people realize that it is impossible to live forever.

I selected this very Physiological Diagram because it turned out to be unique and not very typical for Warhol. Even though it included bright colors, this artwork was not connected with the pop culture and looked minimalistic. It was not possible to understand what this picture is about without analyzing it closely and acknowledging information about the artist and his work provided in the museum. While looking at this piece initially, I thought that it bears some abstract idea. However, additional information made me realize that it is a kind of a self-portrait developed by Warhol when he started thinking of the way human body changes with the course of time. Presenting Physiological Diagram of his own body, the artist also made viewers consider how their organisms are affected by aging and health issues.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, December 22). “Physiological Diagram” Artwork by Andy Warhol. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/physiological-diagram-artwork-by-andy-warhol/

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"“Physiological Diagram” Artwork by Andy Warhol." StudyCorgi, 22 Dec. 2020, studycorgi.com/physiological-diagram-artwork-by-andy-warhol/.

1. StudyCorgi. "“Physiological Diagram” Artwork by Andy Warhol." December 22, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/physiological-diagram-artwork-by-andy-warhol/.


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StudyCorgi. 2020. "“Physiological Diagram” Artwork by Andy Warhol." December 22, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/physiological-diagram-artwork-by-andy-warhol/.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) '“Physiological Diagram” Artwork by Andy Warhol'. 22 December.

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