The Return of Warhol’s “Rain Machine”

Astghik Cin Poghosyan  | October 2016

   Art’s tendency to imitate life is the foundation of its innovation front. Andy Warhol took this concept and stretched it decades ahead of his time and created an installation piece that allowed a fully subversive experience for his audience, much like virtual reality.

   Culturally, we are often stuck in nostalgia. We find magic in certain things of the past, and there is no denying Warhol’s magical essence. A man ahead of his time in both vision and execution, Warhol teamed up with Maurice Tuchman and Cowle’s Communications on what, at the time, was considered a cutting-edge installation. “Rain Machine (Daisy Waterfalls), is a wall of 3D lenticular panels with a daisy print in front of real water coursing from suspended spray nozzles.


   The installation first debuted in 1970 at the United States Pavilion Expo in Japan, shortly followed by another exhibition in LACMA in 1971.  

   The piece has not been displayed in the states for 45 years, and its comeback holds a particular significance in the modern art world and the progression of hyper-realistic VR.  Warhol’s original “Rain Machine” had a life span of six months after which extensive water damage to the piece called for a new replacement. Tuchman, who was a pioneer in experimental art and technology, recalled that it didn’t occur to anyone to put up Plexiglas.


   The re-installation of the piece follows Warhol’s design with a modern twist. Refik Anadol, an LA-based Turkish artist, was asked to work on the piece. Unlike Warhol’s design, Anadol uses a 3,000-foot exhibition space as his canvas, completely submerging his audience in the experience rather than utilizing the immediate space in front of the 3D panels. The spectator would have to walk through a rain maze, experience the sound of rushing droplets before finally reaching the piece.

   “Warhol was looking for a ghostly effect, he was thinking a lot about light,” Anadol said. “We’re projecting onto pitch darkness, this nonspace. We’ve achieved ghostly.”

The piece is up on exhibition in the Young Projects Gallery in West Hollywood.