Andy Warhol’s silkscreened series Shadows is on view now at Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Shadows was created during the last decade of Warhol’s life and consists of 102 prints of shadows produced in his studio. The paintings are exhibited on an uninterrupted wall, providing a unique opportunity to view the series curving through the museum’s galleries. The Shadow series departs from Warhol’s usual pop style as he generated the shadows himself in his studio, creating abstract forms not normally seen in his work.
The shadows appear mainly as black shapes on bright, expressive backgrounds ranging in color. This black, lanky form has been dubbed “the peak” and its second iteration—usually a silver “cap”—is shorter, emerging from a black background. The first shadow is a positive, while the second represents a lack or absence of the shadow. Of the series, Warhol’s assistant Ronnie Cutrone said:
Andy had a burning desire to do abstract art… and I said, “you’re Andy Warhol; you should paint something that is something, but it’s not… you should paint shadows. You love shadows anyway. They’re all in your work”… I had 150 shadow photographs on contact sheets twelve days later. We picked some of them out and then he asked me to mix the colors for them.
Shadows was purchased as a single piece commissioned by the Lone Star Foundation, now the DIA Art Foundation, in 1979. Today, the Shadow series is a part of DIA:Beacon’s collection. The cycle was rarely seen in its entirety until 1998 when the paintings were first exhibited together by DIA. The series hangs in no particular order, sequenced only by acquisition number. At the Hirshhorn, as at DIA:Beacon, the paintings are grouped often by color: the blues with the blues, the greys with the greys. The linear display is both a comprehensive whole, and a collection of 102 variations.
- G. Linden