Andy Warhol: pioneering digital art on Amiga 2000

30 January 2021 di ejan

This post is also available in: Italiano

If they told you that there are at least twenty original Warhols that hardly anyone has ever seen, would you believe it? What if, moreover, it would turn out that these works are in pixel art?

It seems incredible that there is still something unknown about one of the most documented and acclaimed artists in mass culture and the media, yet it is all true. The data mining that allowed the discovery of all this is due to the teamwork carried out by the artist and programmer Cory Arcangel and the Andy Warhol Museum.

Cover of the issue of Amiga Magazine starring Andy Warhol.

THE DISCOVERY

In fact, in the institution’s endless archives, since 1985 to be precise, a prehistoric floppy disk was kept for many years, on the verge of wear, containing drawings made by Warhol himself on the occasion of the inauguration of the Commodore Amiga 2000, technology among the most advanced at the time.

This hardware made it possible, unlike the first Mac prototype, to display 4096 colors, an essential condition to attract and allow the genius of Pop Art to create.

The firm interest aroused in Cory Arcangel, ravished by this story and the huge work done by engineers and hackers who patiently worked on the hard drive for hours, have allowed us to extrapolate that content that has remained in oblivion for more than twenty years.

Andy Warhol, Venus, 1985.
Amiga 2000 digital painting

The first exciting image resulting from the immense effort of decryption is a version of Botticelli’s Venus… with 3 eyes! Made with a technique inherited from Chevreulian pointillism, transposed into pixels, it exhibits in a destabilizing way the almost embarrassing talent of Warhol, at his debut with technology, in a world that wasn’t digitized yet. Not at a popular level, at least. The first personal computers were in fact just starting to spread like wildfire.

In addition to Warhol’s extraordinary dexterity and inventiveness, we also recognize a dose of ironic mockery of institutional art that distinguishes the American artist.

DEBBIE HARRY

At the premiere of the new computer, the artist delighted in a (paid) demonstration of the creative potential of Amiga 2000, portraying Debbie Harry, Blondie singer and its historical muse, live.

Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry portrait, 1985
Amiga 2000 digital painting
Andy Warhol e Debbie Harry looking at the portrait in progress.

The exciting moment of the cartridge revealing showed the name of the program used that day by Warhol: GraphiCraft.

Leaving the people astonished in the archive in admiration and palpitating, aware that at any moment the work could be lost due to its fragility, about a dozen files emerged, some immediately recognizable given their name “Campbells.pic”, “Marilyn1 .pic ”or“ flower.pic ”.

Andy Warhol, Flower, 1985.
Andy Warhol, Marylin, 1985.

An exciting discovery, which sheds further light on a seemingly limitless talent.

And it makes us wonder what Warhol could have achieved if he could had lived a little longer, with the technology rapidly, very rapidly, advancing.

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