Warhol’s Shadows III complete portfolio is part of a larger Shadows series, which consists of 102 individual painted canvases installed to form one continuous piece. These obscure forms are each printed in two colors. This series was originally conceived as room decoration, referring to this multiple part work as “disco-décor”. The large scale and color Warhol used in this work keep the viewer guessing what the subject might be, without looking at the title. The use of black in most of the prints portrays a dark moody feeling throughout the series. They are big, colorful filmstrip inspired images that evoke experimental film and the drones of the Velvet Underground. The work is mysterious as the slight variation in shape in each print from the others.
Warhol himself never saw all 102 panels of the Shadows portfolio together. He 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.
MOCA director Philippe Vergne describes Shadows suites as, “the line between the American dream and the American death. They are as dark as they are glamorous.” The individual interpretation each viewer has with the work makes this a powerful series in that unlike Warhol’s other works, the work is not straightforward or showcasing technique. These 74 x 52 inch canvases reinforce the American ideal of “bigger is better.” Perhaps the abstract depiction could trigger us to believe Warhol was pointing out that to most things in life be believe bigger is better and that he did not feel the need to showcase actual objects or aspects in our lives that this phrase and rendering coincides with. The Shadows complete portfolios includes Shadows I (FS II.204-209), Shadows II (fs ii.210-215), Shadows III (FS II.216-221), Shadows IV (FS II.222-223) and Shadows V (FS II.224-225).