Warhol's Rain Machine (Daisy Waterfall)
Technology Inspiring Art at LACMA
In 1968, curators at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art began planning the Art and Technology project, an exhibition in which leading artists would pair with visionary technology corporations to create unexpected and inventive collaborative works of art. Maurice Tuchman, one of the curators working on the exhibition, approached Andy Warhol about his involvement with the project and suggested that he contribute a work utilizing the innovative process of holographic printing. Andy had recently attended a show of Bruce Nauman’s self-portrait holograms at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery and showed enthusiasm for the idea but was reluctant to follow Nauman too closely. Deciding instead to use lenticular printing, he paired with Cowles Communication and set to work in his New York studio creating plans for what would become his Rain Machine.
Originally, he envisioned a wall-sized three-dimensional print that would be exposed to natural forces such as wind, snow and rain. He experimented with various prototypes, building a snow-blowing diorama as well as a device that would project a beam of light through a spray of mist. Ultimately, he decided on a more straightforward presentation of his idea. His single, oversized image would be transformed into 70 smaller xographic prints of four daisies (later this would be reconfigured to present a single bloom) installed on a wall behind two curtains of continuously cascading water. Hailed as a triumph, the image of the daisy optimized the impact of the 3-D optics and the two sheets of falling water created a glittering, ghostly haze through which to view the constructed landscape. Critics of the exhibition referred to the installation as “one of the most compelling works in the exhibition because of its strangely tough and eccentric quality” and the work succeeded in pushing Warhol’s floating flowers motif to a new level.
Rain Machine (Daisy Waterfall) was produced in an edition of four and exhibited at EXPO 70 in Osaka, returning to LACMA the following year. Over time though, the prints became damaged from the constant exposure to water (a protective screen of Plexiglas was never considered) and most were ultimately destroyed. Today, only 65 of the lenticular works in the edition survive in the collection of former LACMA curator Maurice Tuchman.