Shadows and Knives
March 2–June 30, 2017
22 Grafton Street
London W1S 4EX
Hours: Monday–Friday 10am–6pm
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Cardi Gallery London is delighted to present Andy Warhol: Shadows and Knives. The exhibition features works from a series conceived in 1978 by the artist.
In 1978, at age 50, Andy Warhol embarked upon the production of a monumental body of work titled “Shadows” with the assistance of his entourage at the Factory. Conceived as one painting in multiple parts, with the final number of canvases being determined by the dimensions of an exhibition space, these 102 silkscreened canvas panels formalised the artist’s earlier explorations of abstraction.
14 canvases of this project are on view at Cardi Gallery, London. Displaying Warhol’s signature palette of bright hues, the backgrounds of “Shadows” were painted with a sponge mop, the streaks and trails it left adding gesture to the picture plane. Seven or eight different screens were used to create the series, as is evident in the slight shifts in scales of dark areas as well as the arbitrary presence of spots of light. The “shadows” alternate between positive and negative imprints as they march along the wall of the gallery. In focusing on the shadow to devise light—that is to say, sparks of color—Warhol returns to the quintessential problem of art: perception.
In a 1978 interview with author Patrick Smith, Ronnie Cutrone discussed the process of making the “Shadow” paintings. “In the case of the ‘Shadows’ I just got matte boards and pieces of cardboard, arranged them… and photographed them.” After the film was developed, the contact sheets were brought to Andy’s studio so he could select the pictures that had the most appealing shadows. Those photos were made into 8 x 10 inch black-and-white prints. Another edit was made to this selection, and a final group of the photos became small and large acetates. Andy and Ronnie would place the acetates down on white paper to see how well the shadow imagery worked. The selected acetates would then be transformed into silk-screens. Andy painted the backgrounds of the small 14 x 11 inch “Shadow” paintings with a paintbrush. But with the larger “Shadow” pieces, which were painted later, Andy used kitchen mops purchased from May’s Department store, located on 14th Street and Union Square near his studio, to get bigger-looking “brush” strokes that enhanced the texture of the painted surface after the silkscreen ink was squeegeed onto the painted linen canvas.
Despite the apparent embrace of repetition, Warhol’s “machine method” is nothing but handmade. A significant and intriguing fact about “Shadows” is the irreproducibility of its assumed reproduction. A point that problematizes his infamous aesthetic of “plagiarism” and positions Warhol’s “Shadow” project as one that is primordially pictorial. Far from replicas, each “Shadow” corresponds to a form that reveals, with precision and self-awareness, its space, directing the viewer’s gaze to light, the central subject of that is perception.
The “Shadow” series can evoke a calm, meditative, spiritual feeling for the viewer standing in the room in which they are installed. They are a wonder to look at as a group, or individually with their unique colors and painterly backgrounds that make the same abstract shapes look seemingly different. These are powerful paintings that cannot be ignored.
With this exhibition, Cardi Gallery reaffirms its interest in historical national and international artists.
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