Shadows I 206 by Andy Warhol is one of six prints from the Shadows I portfolio and part of Warhol’s larger 102-print Shadows series. Made up of black and gold painted with a sponge mop, this original print exemplifies the moody, abstract characteristics of the Shadows I portfolio and the greater Shadows series. Warhol published Shadows I 206 in 1979 in collaboration with his “master” printer Rupert Jasen Smith. The Shadows 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 later when he used the Shadows panels 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, are able to stand on their own. While Shadows I 206 may look gorgeous by itseld, it is only fully appreciated when presented in unison with its other colorful counterparts.
The Shadows I 206 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 the use of 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.