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Warhol’s Amiga Computer Artworks Uncovered After 30 Years

29 April 2014

A Campbell’s soup can and a portrait of Marilyn Monroe are, of course, textbook Andy Warhol. But a collection of works newly recovered from his archive show his iconic subjects as we’ve never seen them before – as computer-generated sketches made by the artist on a 1980s Amiga computer.

Commodore International commissioned Warhol to demonstrate the graphic art capabilities of its Amiga 1000 computer model in 1985. The files had been trapped on Amiga floppy disks since entering The Warhol Museum’s collection in 1994 due to their obsolete format.

(1985), Andy Warhol

Campbell’s (1985), Andy Warhol ©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visuals Arts, Inc., courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

Following a painstaking three-year recovery process, the digital images have been extracted by members of the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Computer Club – a student organisation known for its comprehensive collection of obsolete computer hardware – and the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.

The search was kick-started by artist Cory Arcangel after he came across a YouTube video clip of Warhol promoting the release of the Amiga 1000. After watching the artist using an Amiga program to create a portrait of Blondie singer Debbie Harry, he contacted the Andy Warhol Museum in 2011 asking to search their archives for more artworks resulting from the collaboration.

(1985), Andy Warhol

Venus (1985), Andy Warhol ©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visuals Arts, Inc., courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

Ranging from doodles to portraits, the extracted files show the artist, then in his 50s, grappling with the new sensation of mark-making with a mouse rather than pencil or printing ink.

‘No doubt he resisted the urge to physically touch the screen – it had to be enormously frustrating,’ commented Matt Wrbican, chief archivist at The Warhol, who played a key role in the hunt for the forgotten files. ‘But it also marked a huge transformation in our culture: the dawn of the era of affordable home computing. We can only wonder how he would explore and exploit the technologies that are so ubiquitous today.’

Commodore Amiga computer equipment used by Andy Warhol 1985-86

Commodore Amiga computer equipment used by Andy Warhol 1985-86 Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiment, the first episode in five-part documentary series The Invisible Photograph, will be screened on May 10 at www.nowseethis.org.

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