No artist contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture as much as Andy Warhol did. Having omnivorous curiosity and willingness to experiment with non-traditional art-making techniques, he created an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium, at the same time elevating his own persona to the level of a popular icon.
In the late 1970s, Warhol created the Shadows series, one of his most abstract works, yet one that cohesively synthesizes key elements of his practice - film, painting, photography, and screenprinting. A body of work which formalized the Pop artist’s earlier explorations of abstraction, Shadows is conceived as one painting in multiple parts, with the final number of canvases being determined by the dimensions of an exhibition space.
First exhibited at Dia in 1979, Shadows has not been exhibited in New York City since 1998–99, when this institution presented it in its former Chelsea location. Now, this monumental body of work returns to the city and will soon be on view at a street-front space in Calvin Klein, Inc.’s headquarters. The installation will surround the viewer with a series of canvases, presented edge-to-edge around the perimeter of the room in conformity with Warhol’s original vision. Following the New York presentation, the work will reopen as a long-term installation at Dia:Beacon in Beacon in 2019.
In 1978, Andy Warhol embarked upon the production of Shadows with the assistance of his entourage at the Factory. Using photographs of maquettes expressly created to form shadows, he produced a large number of silkscreens balanced between “the peak”, a tall, narrow form which appears almost exclusively in black against a background of colors, and “the cap” a shorter, more organic form appearing as a negative on the black background.
The works were created with a sponge mop, with the streaks and trails it left adding gesture to the picture plane. Although the work is composed of the total of 102 screenprints, the final number of canvases in each installation is determined by the dimensions of an existing exhibition space.
The commissioned body of work was acquired by Dia in 1979 for a solo exhibition at 393 West Broadway. The canvases were installed edge to edge, in the order proposed by Warhol’s assistants Ronnie Cutrone and Stephen Mueller, mimicking the continuity of a filmstrip and referencing the artist’s significant filmmaking practice. This unique environmental ensemble was described by the artist in 1979 as “disco décor.”
Dona de Salvo, the Whitney Museum’s Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator organizing the Warhol retrospective at the Whitney, who served as a curator at Dia from 1981 to 1986, explained that Shadows is an unexpected culmination of many of the experiments that the king of Pop Art pursued throughout his career. Now regarded as an expert on Warhol, it was Dia's artist-driven collection where de Salvo was first able to really immerse herself in Warhol's work, but also meet the artist directly.
Dia’s decision to present Shadows concurrently with the retrospective at the Whitney adds crucially to our effort to provide a holistic view of Warhol’s oeuvre and offers the public an unprecedented opportunity to map his trajectory and to experience the significance of seriality in his work.
Dia's relationship with Warhol is rather special. As Jessica Morgan, Dia's Nathalie de Gunzburg Director, explains, he was one of the original group of artists championed by the institution in the 1970s, and due to the depth and duration of their relationship, the museum acquired over two hundred works by the artist, eventually gifting the majority of these works in the 1990s for the creation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
Regarded as one of Warhol's most enigmatic works, Shadows became an iconic part of Dia’s collection when it was first shown in 1979. Once again, the public will have an opportunity to fully appreciate the remarkable use of seriality and difference in his practice which the work remarkably illustrates. Morgan explained:
This exhibition marks the first time in twenty years that visitors will be able to experience the work in New York City, where it made its debut before it returns to Dia:Beacon. Placed within the broader context of Dia’s programming and the creative continuum of the artist's work on view at the Whitney, we hope this presentation will shed new light on one of the artist’s most complex and remarkable works.
The presentation of the Andy Warhol Shadows will be a truly immersive experience for viewers.
Organized by Dia, it will be on view at the ground-level gallery space at Calvin Klein, Inc.’s headquarters in New York from October 26th until December 15th, 2018. In 2019, it will be reinstalled on long-term view at Dia:Beacon.
Exhibited concurrently with the retrospective Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Shadows will be animated by a series of public programs and a publication of essays by contemporary artists on the king of Pop, the third book in Dia’s Artists on Artists Lecture Series. The presentation and conservation of the work at the museum have been made possible by CALVIN KLEIN.
Featured images: Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978–79. Installation view, Dia:Beacon, Beacon, New York, 2003–11. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York. All images courtesy of Dia:Beacon.