Shadows II 210 by Andy Warhol is a print from the Shadows II portfolio. Composed of black and a dark fiery red, this piece is exemplary of the other works in this portfolio as well as the larger Shadows series, which repetitively details a shadow on the wall cast by a desk lamp in Warhol’s studio. The work is derived from Warhol’s original 102-piece Shadows project, which includes images from all of the Shadow print portfolios. Warhol published Shadows II 210 under his own name in 1979 in collaboration with his “master” printer, Rupert Jasen Smith. The Shadows series was exhibited that same year at the Heiner Friedrich gallery in New York City.
Speaking about Shadows, Warhol said, “Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I said no…disco décor.” According to previous MOCA director Philippe Vergne, Warhol said he “dreamed” of having the Shadows works installed in Studio 54. Playing on this idea, it seemed that Warhol felt as if this series was reminiscent of wallpaper (alluding back to his Cow wallpaper from the late sixties), which was exemplified when he later staged a fashion shoot with his Shadows series as the backdrop. Warhol gives the prints a sparkly effect by adding diamond dust, making them all the more suitable to adorn the walls of a disco club.
Vergne also said that Warhol himself never saw all 102 panels of the Shadows suite together. He left no instructions on the order in which to hang them and since the pieces are not numbered, they are meant to be hung at random as the artist intended. Perhaps leaving room for play, Warhol 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 stand alone as a complete work.
Shadows II 210 was created in the last decade of Warhol’s life. The piece speaks to the artist’s wide range of artistic interests and the expansion of his subject matter toward the end of his career. Warhol was always very interested in repetition in his series, but also aimed to maintain a sense of uniqueness in each piece. This is especially evident in works like Shadows II as each print has similar compositional aspects, yet they remain different from one another and are best appreciated when displayed in unison.
This piece was just one of many that Warhol created from a shadowy photograph in his studio. Although Warhol undermined the artistic quality of this series, many viewers felt that the cumulative effect of the numerous prints hung together was powerful and truly something new. This series, created in the last decade of Warhol’s life, marks a shift in Warhol’s artistry from his earlier Pop Art works of mass-produced objects and glamorous celebrities to a mysterious foray into abstract subject matter.