In the late 1970s, Andy Warhol began to use shadows as subject matter. The artist eventually conceived of a 102 panel series of silkscreened and hand-painted canvases depicting shadows in many colors and with the repetition for which he came to be famous. The canvases that comprise MOCA’s just opened show Andy Warhol: Shadows are mostly owned by the Dia Foundation in New York, and they have been reunited for the show for only the second time since their creation. MOCA calls them a “monumental painting in 102 parts” and they are on display at MOCA Grand Avenue from September 20, 2014 to February 2, 2015.
MOCA Director Philippe Vergne — who exhibits true enthusiasm at having these canvases take up such glorious space at the Grand Avenue galleries — noted that the works at once very modern (because they employ the abstraction that is prevalent in current painting) and evocative of the stylized 1970s; in fact, Warhol referred to these paintings as “disco decor”. Here is a link to the Dia Art Foundation’s write up of this work.
To see the paintings all together is indeed seductive – they draw you in with luminous and deep colors and the repetition is strangely calming (although the purple canvases above differ from the majority of the other panels). The work is provocative because there is so little on the canvases and the notion of representing and repeating a shadow is so elusive as to be intangible.
Kids will indeed wonder if there is anything depicted at all! Parents can discuss Warhol’s penchant for bold representation, gleeful repetition and the appropriation of popular culture images for his own art. Of course, it’s fun to discuss the idea of “15 minutes of fame,” as well. Perhaps in these three simple panels, the shadows are most evident and the view can imagine the light necessary to cast the geometric shapes.
The items assembled in MOCA’s always excellent gift shop are especially fun to explore – puzzles of the Campbell’s soup cans, sticky-notes with famous Warhol images such as the flowers, cows, and bananas, and much more for pop-art fans.