Category Archives: Hirshhorn Museum

Andy Warhol: Shadows


Andy Warhol’s Shadows series is on view at the Hirshhorn Museum.  The entire series is owned by the Dia Foundation and is rarely on public view in its entirety.  The 67 silkscreen paintings are based on a picture of a shadow from Warhol’s office.  While Warhol asserts that the same image is repeated 67 times,  observation reveals two variations of the shadow images.   The paintings are a typical color palate of bright primary and secondary colors.  The painting are hung side by side,  without space in-between.  This long line of repetitive images creates the illusion of one continuous work which appears more like a film reel than a traditional painting.  This appeals to Warhol’s self definition as a painter and a film maker.

In the installation there is a quote from Warhol, which clashes with his artwork’s post-mortem monetary value.  Warhol says,  “The paintings can’t be bought.  The Lone Star Foundation is presenting them and they own them” (Painter Hangs Own Paintings,  NY, Feb. 1979).  Given Warhol’s focus on commodification,  I always wonder how he would feel to know that his artworks are blue chip investments and their market value often outpace global financial markets.  While it could be argued that Warhol was more interested in fame rather than wealth, it is curious that Warhol secured the purchase of the series to the Lone Star Foundation (now the Dia Foundation).  Warhol recongnized that the strength of the series is in the multiplicity of the shadow image.  Choosing to secure the series with the Lone Star Foundation is interesting,  because Warhol often denied that the Shadow series was art.  He often refered to the paintings as ‘disco decor.’ Apart from the Andy Warhol museum in Pennsylvania,  one of Warhol’s largest institutional legacies includes objects rejects as actual works of art.


All 67 paintings are on view at the Hirshhorn Museum until January 15th.

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Nira Pereg: 67 Bows

Nira Pereg brings political metaphor to the Hirshhorn Museum with her video 67 Bows.  The video presentation is located in the Black Box until November 13, 2011. The Israeli artists remains true to her documentarian roots with the haunting video.   Lacking a traditional narrative, the video reveals an interior of a flamingo sanctuary at a zoo in Germany.  The wide angled shots of flamingos contrast the audio of a gun cocking and firing a bullet.   Pereg edits the two elements together so the flamingo’s duck after the audio of the bullet. The contradiction between the beauty of the birds and the forcefulness of the audio imply multiple levels of violence.

With the flamingos metaphorically dodging bullets, Pereg questions the role of firearms in society.  Pereg handles this heavy-handed subject matter gracefully by enchanting the audience with the beauty of the flamingos.  At first glance, Pereg questions the hunter/prey relationship between humans and animals.  By filming the flamingos within the context of a zoo, Pereg questions the need for the animals to be protected.  In contrast to this notion, the reason zoos exist is to protect animals against human violence and the preservation of endangered species.

Pereg’s nationality provides an alternative avenue of interpretation, given the daily violence within Israel.  By anthropomorphizing the birds, Pereg invokes the human emotion of fear. The flamingos cower after the repetitive bullet noises.  The flamingos become a metaphor for the Israeli people. They live in a protected society, but still have to dodge bullets.

The strength of the video is the simplicity of the shots, the repetitive audio, and the looping images.  The messages behind the video become apparent by observing the video for a relatively short period of time.  The disparity of the audio and visual elements of the piece draws the viewer to watch the screen.  The beauty of the birds and a morbid sense of curiosity compel the viewer to keep watching.   Instead of repulsing the viewer, this video entices the viewer to observe and contemplate.

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