Shadows II 214 by Andy Warhol is a print from the Shadows II portfolio. This piece is exemplary of the other five works in this portfolio, and is composed of red and grey colors forming a shadowy landscape cast on the wall by a desk lamp in Warhol’s studio. The work is derived from an original 102-piece series by Warhol called Shadows, which includes images from all of the Shadow print portfolios. Warhol published Shadows II 214 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 more so than high art, which was exemplified when he later staged a fashion shoot with his Shadows series as the backdrop. By adding diamond dust to the prints Warhol gave them a sparkly effect, making them all the more suitable to adorn the walls at a disco night 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 214 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 his Shadow series as each print has a very similar composition, yet they remain different from one another and are best appreciated when displayed in unison.