This work consists of nine identical black and white photographs of the singer and actress Grace Jones (born 1948), stitched together with thread into a three by three grid. Excess thread is left hanging at the joins of the images. In the photographs Jones appears against a pale background and wears a dark peaked cap, a light-coloured soft scarf, a fur coat with a high plush collar, and a leather studded glove on her right hand, which grips the bottom of her collar. She looks straight towards the camera; only her face is uncovered. The image is tightly cropped so that Jones’s face and chest occupy the majority of the picture, restricting the sense of space.
Grace Jones is one of a number of stitched photograph works by Warhol in the ARTIST ROOMS collection. Another of these also features Grace Jones, Grace Being Painted by Keith 1986 (AR00291), in which graffiti artist Keith Haring is shown decorating Jones’s body with his signature ‘tribal’ markings. During the 1980s Warhol made just over five hundred stitched photographs, as well as an edition of 120 smaller sewn pieces depicting skeletons that were produced for Parkett magazine in 1987. Each of these works consists of a number of identical photographic prints (four, six, nine or twelve) that were stitched together using a machine. Almost all the sewing for these works was carried out by Warhol’s assistant Michele Loud, a former fashion student. Warhol’s stitched photographs depict a wide range of subjects including signs, objects, celebrities, nude models and buildings.
Having started her career as a successful runway model, Jones began recording music in the late 1970s. Her albums include Warm Leatherette (1980), Nightclubbing (1981), Living My Life (1982) and Slave to the Rhythm (1985). In collaboration with the graphic designer and illustrator Jean-Paul Goude, Jones created a striking self-image, which included a bold flat-top haircut, angular make-up, outlandish costumes, a marked androgyny. She has also acted in a number of films, including Conan the Destroyer (1984), A View to a Kill (1985), and Vamp (1986). Jones’s fame arguably peaked around the mid-1980s at the time when Warhol created his stitched photographs of her.
Jones features in several different works by Warhol. The photograph which forms the basis of this work was taken on 23 July 1984. Warhol recounts taking the image in his diaries:
Went down to meet Grace Jones at the office and we waited for three hours. Benjamin went out and made calls and finally tracked her down at Bergdorf’s getting a fur coat out of the Revillon cooler. She spends all her money on fur coats. She says it’s all she cares about, and that she doesn’t care about money, just furs ... She buys them and stores them all in the cooler. I was taking pictures of Grace for Vogue, and we were interviewing her for the cover of Interview. But anyway, she was really late, and we were putting her down for hours and then suddenly she appeared and it was all, ‘Oh darling!’
(Warhol 1992, p.743.)
Warhol took other photographs of Jones during the 1980s, as well as producing screenprints of her. The artist and singer also socialised together: photographer Ronald Galella took a picture of the two of them together at Studio 54 in 1978 attending a party for the premiere of the film Grease. In his diaries, Warhol recalls how he and Jones rented a plane and flew together to the wedding of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver in April 1986.
This stitched photograph of Grace Jones can be compared to Warhol’s screenprints in which an image of a celebrity (for example Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, or Jackie Kennedy) is reproduced identically, or nearly identically, multiple times, often in a grid format. However, Warhol’s screenprints of stars made in the 1960s, such as Marilyn Diptych 1962 (Tate), were made using found and appropriated images, whereas his comparable works from the 1980s – including screenprints and stitched photographs – were based on photographs taken by the artist himself.
A colour Polaroid photograph of Jones wearing exactly the same clothes as in this stitched work was published in Vincent Fremont’s book of Warhol’s Polaroids.
Vincent Fremont, Andy Warhol Polaroids 1971–1986, New York 1992.
Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries, ed. by Pat Hackett, London 1992.
William V. Ganis, Andy Warhol’s Serial Photography, Cambridge 2004.
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh is a research partner of ARTIST ROOMS.