Andy 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.
Warhol also used diamond dust in his Shadows pieces, adding a sparkling effect that fits his “dream” of having the series installed in a disco club like Studio 54. 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. The original 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 we 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 complete Shadows print series 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).
Shadows III complete portfolio by Andy Warhol as Part of His Larger Body of Work
Warhol’s Shadows III series is a direct continuation of the first and second portfolios as it features similar compositional imagery and color schemes. This portfolio was just one of many that Warhol created from shadowy photographs 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 this mysterious abstract art that defined his later career.