Edition of 125, 25 AP, 1 PP,signed, numbered and dated '75 in pencil on verso
Ladies and Gentlemen: 1975 portfolio of ten screen-printed portraits of African American drag queens. The ladies and gentlemen pictured here have no proper names. Insofar as attaining fame and face necessarily involves getting, having, or making a name for oneself, these sitters will never be stars. Hence their anonymity is of an entirely different order than "the anonymous identity of all the stars." These ladies and gentlemen Fail to become the anybodies who represent the abstract notion of celebrity. Instead, in the absence of specific names, they remain nobodies.
Beyond their lack of names, the most striking feature of the faces in these prints is their color. The fullness of nonwhite color in these prints alone offers a striking contrast to the celebrity portraits, a function that might initially be presumed to reflect the tonal difference of the sitters' skin. However, at least in one case, the colors are used to reconstruct the sitter in blackface. While this may seem to make sense as a counterpart to the mask of whiteface, we should recall that the whiteness of the whiteface in the celebrity portraits does not call attention to itself Instead, it functions ideologically as unmarkedness. Given the historical precedent and political implication of blackface in U.S. popular culture, its reproduction in Ladies and Gentlemen is difficult to ignore, despite Warhol's failure to comment upon or to call attention to it. Furthermore, unlike the celebrity portraits, the colors in this series function as interference, Where in most Warhol portraits colors are used to differen tiate the face from ground and to effectively pop the face into relief, in Ladies and Gentlemen the colors bleed across lines that distinguish face and ground, leaving the faces undifferentiated and, in some cases, nearly unidentifiable.
Moreover, the colors in Ladies and Gentlemen are shaped by roughly torn pieces of paper. While the use of abstractly shaped and vibrant colors was a feature of many of Warhol's later portraits, such as those of Rudolf Nureyev from the same year, the violence suggested by the torn pieces of paper is, as far as I know, unique to this series. (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0425/is_1_62/ai_99377974/pg_4)