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Sex Parts and Torsos (1977) - Andy Warhol
Sex Parts and Torsos (1977)Courtesy of Andy Warhol and Hedges Project (James Hedges)

The dick pics that inspired Andy Warhol’s most explicit work

When he encountered a guy bragging about his large penis, Warhol responded in the only way he knew how

When Andy Warhol was approached by a man boasting about his massive cock, the artist, naturally, reached for his… camera. The images of these impressive genitals were then consigned to one of his many storage boxes of detritus and casually labelled “Sex Parts”.

In the Autumn of 1977, Warhol noticed the promising title of this particular box and revisited its contents, inspired to create a series of work based on the original images he found inside. It would be collectively titled – with startling literalness – Torsos and Sex Parts. According to the writer and Factory-insider, Bob Colacello, Warhol fondly referred to the work as the “Cocks, Cunts and Assholes series”.

The original Polaroids on which Torsos and Sex Parts is based were taken during a series of photo shoots. The models were procured from gay bathhouses and clubs by Warhol’s assistant, Victor Hugo (who also features in the images). Decades later, art collector Jim Hedges acquired a collection of these Polaroids (which constitutes the largest private collection of Warhol's work) and they are now on display at Hedges Project until 30 June.

The Sex Parts component of this work very much does what it says on the tin. It’s a collection of photographs of anonymous male and female body parts, captured on Warhol’s 35mm camera and Polaroid Big Shot. The Andy Warhol Museum recounts his amazing response when asked about the explicit content of the pictures: “Just tell them it’s art... They’re landscapes.”

Torsos is undoubtedly the tamer part of this piece, featuring screenprints of bodies posed and presented in ways more easily redolent of the traditional classical nude than the more graphic Sex Parts. According to the Andy Warhol Museum, “While the Torsos paintings would quickly be praised for following in the “high art” style of classical nudes, the Sex Parts series from which Torsos was borne blurred the line between art and pornography.” To Warhol, these images playfully occupy the space between the high and the low by challenging the notional values we assign to different cultural artefacts.

Andy Warhol's Sex Parts and Torsos Polaroid Photos exhibition is showing at Hedges Projects, Outpost Estates, West Hollywood from 1st March – 30th June