Warhol's Rain Machine (Daisy Waterfall)

Technology Inspiring Art at LACMA

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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.

Andy Warhol

Born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to an impoverished immigrant family, Andy Warhol became an icon of the Pop Art movement and one of the most prolific artists of his time. Though he suffered from physical ailments throughout childhood, he went on to study fine arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and shortly thereafter moved to New York in 1949. His career in commercial illustration took off creating whimsical designs for Glamour, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and The New Yorker magazines. In the early 1950s, he began exhibiting his work in the city and received his first solo show at the Hugo Gallery in 1952 featuring his earliest depictions of actress Marilyn Monroe.

The 1960s ushered in a wave of his iconic work pioneering the dialogue between high and low art. His screen printed, painterly images established his reputation commenting on popular culture with subject matter including celebrities, politics, advertisements, and parties. In 1964, Warhol rented a studio that became known as “The Factory” where his work was mass produced by a team of assistants. During the middle of the decade, Warhol focused on filmmaking and performance art, creating approximately 600 films. He later collaborated with musicians including The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground, published several books, produced televisions shows, and founded Interview Magazine in 1967. After experiencing a near-fatal shooting at The Factory, he became more reserved and his body of work shifted into commissioned portraits, and in his final years he focused on religious subject matter. Andy Warhol died in New York City in 1987 after facing postoperative complications.

A few years following his death, The Andy Warhol Museum was opened in Pittsburgh and in 2002 Warhol’s achievements were honored with an 18-inch stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

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