Shadows I 205 by Andy Warhol is one of six prints from the Shadows I portfolio and part of Warhol’s larger Shadows project. Composed of aubergine purple with parts of carmine red, the contrast in this print exemplifies the moody, abstract characteristics of the Shadows I portfolio and the greater Shadows series. Warhol published Shadows I 205 in 1979 in collaboration with his “master” printer Rupert Jasen Smith. The collection was exhibited that same year at the Heiner Freidrich gallery in New York.
Of the Shadows portfolio, Warhol said, “Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I said no… disco décor.” Playing on this idea, it seems that Warhol felt as if this series was reminiscent of wallpaper more so than high art—perhaps appropriate for gracing the walls of a disco club like Studio 54. He exemplified this feeling when he later used the Shadows for the backdrop of a fashion shoot for Interview magazine.
According to previous MOCA director Philippe Vergne, Warhol never saw all 102 pieces of Shadows together. He intentionally left no instructions on the order in which to hang them and the pieces are not numbered; they are meant to be hung at random. Perhaps leaving room for play, he allowed viewers to have a new experience each time the panels are installed. This idea evokes a new concept, which is not seen in any of Warhol’s other works, as most of his pieces, although organized into portfolios, can be appropriately hung individually. While Shadows I 205 may look gorgeous on its own, it is only fully appreciated when presented in unison with its other colorful counterparts.
The Shadows I 205 screenprint, as well as other works from the portfolio, were painted with a sponge mop, leaving thick lines and dunes in the paint’s texture. They also include diamond dust (making them even more suitable for adorning the walls of a disco club). Warhol used diamond dust in other works like Double Mickey Mouse, Shoes, and Grapes, as he was inspired to do so by Rupert Jasen Smith who used the technique before in his own work.
The Shadows I portfolio was a more abstract-like approach he tested out in the 1970s as a result of his focus in shadowing in many of his still life portraits. He devoted an entire series, along with subsequent others, on the abstract idea of shadows, using colors to effectively demonstrate this technique. With the help of his assistant, Cutrone, Warhol began mixing colors and screenprinting them to create pieces for Shadows I.