The electric chair at Sing Sing prison was easily the most infamous executioner in America, and among its most prolific (so to speak). In
1963, New York banned execution by electric chair, so Warhol commemorated Sing Sing’s as part of his American Death series. The somber image resonated with viewers reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and disassociated Warhol from his other subversively
sunny works. Of course, Warhol was merely using the same compositional techniques as before: A bright neon yellow background defamiliarizes a horrifying method of capital punishment and makes it almost appealing, while a few dark silkscreening marks on the canvas remind us that we are looking at something much more sinister. By making the act
of viewing a tool of murder enjoyable, Warhol forces
us to reconsider how we must respond to human tragedy when it has devolved into another commodity. The effect is, well, electrifying.