Shadows III 218 by Andy Warhol is one of six prints from his Shadows III portfolio, and a single piece of the larger 102-piece Shadows series of which this print is derived from. This piece features yellow, white, and black, with large sponge mop strokes texturizing the lighter colors. Speaking about Shadows, Warhol said, “Someone asked me if I thought they were art and I said no…disco décor.” 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. He also said he dreamed of having the Shadows grace the walls of Studio 54. The pieces become even more appropriate for such a setting through Warhol’s incorporation of diamond dust, adding a sparkly charm to the prints.
According to previous MOCA director Philippe Vergne, Warhol himself never saw all 102 panels of the Shadows series together. Moreover, Warhol left no instructions on the order in which to hang them and since the pieces are not numbered, they can 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 are made in a series, are meant to hang individually.
Although Shadows III 218 diverts from the traditional mass media objects that Warhol famously created, the series illustrates his interest in creating works that all bear the same compositional aspects, yet are still able to hold onto their individual uniqueness. Shadows III 218 incorporates diamond dust, adding a sparkling effect to the print and making the series even more appropriate to hang on the walls at a disco club.
Warhol’s Shadows III 218 is part of a direct continuation of the first and second portfolios. 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 deviation into abstract art later in his later career.