Formal Analysis: Chelsea Gallery Walk As I walked into the Taglialatella galleries in Chelsea, New York, Andy Warhol’s The mark of the beast (negative) caught my attention right away. Warhol portrays a hand with three numbers on it “666” that is ink printed on silkscreen, he uses this symbol to comments on religion and the influential nature of a high power. The black background sets the mood for the work as this reminded me of darkness and a prison scene. The image is very simplistic; The simple black and white colours convey a fearful tone and creates a very negative atmosphere.
This work is twenty inches by sixteen inches, which is fairly large, this creates an illusion of the work having a powerful feature that overpowers the people looking at it, hence further emphasizing the influential nature of the piece. It has a rough edged border, an outline of a hand, and the words “Mark of the Beast” inscribed on it. The simplicity highlights the hand and the words, emphasizing their relationship with one another. The hand appears to be hovering over the words, as if they are reaching out to grab them, suggesting that the hand itself is “the beast”.
The numbers “666” suggest a presence of the “devil” or “satan”, which is likely to be the “Beast” Warhol is referring to. The word “Beast” is larger in proportion to the rest of the words, which underlines its importance. It is also written in an jagged manner, which alludes to the unruly and hellish nature of the piece. I also think that the “Mark” of this beast could be the word “Beast” itself, the hand above it, or the numbers “666”. All three of these are significant parts of the the piece, as they are all emphasized in some way.
Another factor of this piece is its underlying message, and, what exactly that is. Could it be that the hand, which appears to be that of a man in a suit, is the beast? Suggesting that average men,or even humanity in general, are the beast itself? There is a religious factor which comes from the “666” and refers to Satan, and in this case, could be referring to all “non-believers” in general. Both of these aspects have one common factor, which is negativity and darkness.
They both have negative connotations which are represented figuratively and literally through the piece. At first glance, I felt like avoiding the work completely, because it reminded me of a propaganda poster where the hand acted as a higher power trying to brainwash and grab the attention of the young and innocents. I felt uncomfortable standing in front of the work, I also noticed that unconsciously I stood further away from the work, but there was still something about the work that caught my attention.
Although it gave me a very hard time, I was still able to connect with the work compared to the other works in the gallery. I think the fact alone that it has extreme negative connotations grabbed my immediate attention, I believe this is because of the rebellious nature of a boy living in a big city. The first propaganda that came to mind was the very famous English army recruitment poster from world war one featuring Field Marshal Lord Kitchener with the words “ Your country wants you! This poster is very similar to Wharol’s work because the main feature of both work is the hand and its gesture. Similar to the piece, the propaganda captures attention by a very powerful act of pointing of the index finger straight at the person viewing the poster, this makes a personal connection between the hand and the viewer, creating a brainwash effect which is exactly the core purpose of a propaganda. Again very similar to The mark of the beast (negative), the type is also very much alike.
The exaggeration of the size and font of the word “You” is almost identical to the way Warhol portrays the word “beast”. These words are the key subjects the artists want to highlight and use to attract the viewers even more. In my opinion, The mark of the beast (negative) could be a symbol for the world we live in, how the people around us has constant influence on the our every move, both positive and negative. His exploration of religion is also extremely powerful in the sense that it creates tension for the viewers like it did for me.
The ambiguity about whether it is referring to “humanity” or more literally, “religion” or both can allude to the oppressive nature of society or a higher power. Perhaps Wharol’s intention was to cause conflicting ideas and confusion to bring about an inviting atmosphere to the work, drawing people to generate their own thoughts and impressions. I believe The mark of the beast (negative) by Andy Wharol is very successful because it is able to convey a lot of different messages and emotions through a very simple and symbolic piece of work.