By Ann Binlot, April 9, 2014
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the whole nation became enthralled by the media coverage—including artist Andy Warhol. “He was handsome, young, smart, but it didn’t bother me that much that he was dead,” Warhol once said. “What bothered me was the way television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad. It seemed like no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from the thing.”
Warhol found himself most affected by the face of Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy—from her smile before gunshots rang out at Dallas’s Love Field to her devastated look at the president’s funeral. The following February, he began what would eventually become a series of over 300 portraits of the first lady, appropriated from images in the media. Now, the first exhibition centered around those works, “Warhol: Jackie,” is on view at Blain|Di Donna gallery in New York. “Warhol,” says Emmanuel Di Donna, the gallery’s director, made Jackie “even more of an icon by focusing on her face.”
Perhaps the most moving of the more than one dozen silkscreened portraits on display is a collection of nine white, black, and blue images that juxtapose her facial expressions before and after her husband’s death. “It’s just so pure and minimal but so effective and powerful,” says Di Donna.