Andy Warhol, the chronicler of an era, was known for admitting his “fondness for dull things,” which by the early 1960s corresponded to his use of photographic reproductions of found imagery culled from newspapers, magazines, and image archives. In 1978, at age 50, Warhol embarked upon the production of a monumental body of work titled Shadows with the assistance of his entourage at the Factory. These 102 silkscreened canvas panels formalized earlier explorations with abstraction. To locate the radical implications of Warhol’s Shadows, one must begin with the work’s form: this series was conceived as one painting in multiple parts, the final number of canvases determined by the dimensions of an exhibition space. In the first exhibition 83 canvases were installed edge to edge, a foot from the floor, in the order that Warhol’s assistants hung them.
The 102 canvases, all of them on view at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, show Warhol’s signature palette of bright hues with cheerful excess. The backgrounds of these canvases were painted with a sponge mop, the streaks and trails left by the mop adding “gesture” to the picture plane. Seven or eight different screens were used to create Shadows, as evidenced in the slight shifts in scales of dark areas as well as the arbitrary presence of spots of light. The “shadows” alternate between positive and negative imprints as they march along the wall of the gallery.
Despite the apparent embrace of repetition, Warhol’s “machine method” is nothing but handmade. A significant and intriguing fact about Shadows is the irreproducibility of its assumed reproduction, a point that problematizes his infamous aesthetic of “plagiarism” and positions Warhol’s project as one that is primordially pictorial. Far from replicas, each Shadow corresponds to a form that reveals, with precision and self-awareness, its space,
directing the viewer’s gaze to light, the central subject of the series. In focusing on the shadow to devise light—that is to say, sparks of color—Warhol returns to the quintessential problem of art: perception.
Andy Warhol: Shadows is organized by Dia Art Foundation
New York Magazine 5 Feb 1979, Pags. 9-10
Painter Hangs Own Paintings
By Andy Warhol
On Tuesday I hung my painting(s) at the Heiner Friedrich gallery in Soho. Really it’s one painting with 83 parts. Each part is 52 inches by 76 inches and they are all sort of the same except for the colors. I called them “Shadows” because they are based on a photo of a shadow in my office. It’s a silk screen that I mop over with paint.
I started working on them a few years ago. But I get the most done on weekends because during the week people keep coming by to talk.
The painting(s) can’t be bought. The Lone Start Foundation is presenting them and they own them.
Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I say no. You see, the opening party had disco. I guess that makes them disco décor.
This show will be like all the others. The reviews will be bad—my reviews always are. But the reviews of the party will be terrific.
I had the painting(s) hung at eye level. Any lower and people would kick them, especially at the party. The only problem with hanging the show was the gallery floor. One end of the gallery floor is one foot higher that the other.
But the kids helped me, and when we finished we all had lunch. I ate a pickle and drank some Evian and then some Perrier Jouet.
The gallery looked great. It’s a simple, clean space. My Mao show was bigger, but this is the biggest show I’ve had in New York City in a long time.
After we were finished, I took a walk with some friends. We stopped by at Ivan Karp’s gallery, O.K. Harris. He told me that there are a lot people now doing shadows in art. I didn’t know that.
Then we crossed the street and went in to Holly Solomon’s Gallery. I always like to see if the art across the street is better than mine. “