Blurred Ideologies: Cold War Visuality and the Art of Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter, 1950-1968


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Department of the History of Art


My dissertation suggests that the paintings of Warhol and Richter reconfigure, edit, and intervene into two interrelated areas during the 1960s: mass media practices and political crises of the Cold War. Though trained in opposing ideological systems in the 1950s (Warhol the commerical artist, Richter the socialist realist), they both subsequently developed a visual idiom that addressed the contested status of the image in the Cold War era. By considering how picture magazines, newspapers, photographs, and television were prime vehicles on both sides of the iron curtain for communication history and ideology, Warhol’s and Richter’s paintings demonstrate the very instability of these terms in the 1950s and 1960s. By looking at these artists together, my dissertation not only offers the first study of these two major artists in terms of Cold War politics, but also suggests a radical art history of the era that is founded on the visual similarities, not differences, that characterize the communist/capitalist sides of the conflict.