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CMU Computer Club Discovers Digital Works By Andy Warhol

By: Alyssa Marsico
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(Source: Carnegie Mellon University)

(Source: Carnegie Mellon University)

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PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The public is finally getting a look at an historic art discovery recently made by students are Carnegie Mellon University.

In 1985, several digital works done by famous Pittsburgh pop artist Andy Warhol were saved on floppy disks. Fast forward to 2014, and finally the work has been revealed.

The files were trapped on Amiga floppy disks and archived in the Andy Warhol Museum until members of the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club were brought in to retrieve the files. It required years of planning and months of intricate hardware and software recovery.

Warhol earned his Bachelor’s degree in fine arts from CMU in 1949.

Jonathan Gaughler, the media relations manager of the Carnegie Museum or Art, joined Bill Rehkopf on the KDKA Afternoon News to talk about this new revelation and how it was discovered.

“The emphasis for this all came through an artist we have been working with. His name is Cory Arcangel,” Gaughler said. “Cory is a techie himself. He does a lot of artwork based on old technology, old Nintendo cartridges, that sort of thing. He speculated this back in 2011, and I don’t know if you have ever been to the Warhol, but their archive is huge and Andy Warhol kept a lot of stuff. So he thought, hmm, maybe they are in there.”

So the process began, leading to teams finding 20 images recovered from the 41 disks. Warhol played around with some of his classic images, like the Campbell’s soup can. All the work dates back to 1985 when the original software came out.

“This is all from when the Commodore Amiga 1000 launched,” Gaughler said. “The Amiga Corporation said, ‘Hey, can we commission artwork from you, and so he made drawings of Debbie Harry; but apparently, he spent some time practicing, and if anybody remembers the first time you picked up a mouse and used MS paint or whatever – and I do – you click the paint fill button and it fills the whole screen and you don’t even know what happened, and the same thing happened with Andy Warhol.”

The recovery process was rough, and Gaughler says there were many concerns that the works could potentially be lost.

“As objects in the archive, they are more careful with them then with just sticking them in old computers. We don’t know if that would damage the contents on the drive. These old magnetic disks were read by heads that would actually touch the floppy part of the disks with the magnetic charge. They were not going to take old drives that might have something on it by Andy Warhol, put it in a drive and hope it would work,” Gaughler said.

You can view the artwork in the documentary Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, May 10 at 7 p.m. in the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall. The movie catalogs the journey and recovery efforts.

Click her for more information!

You can hear the whole interview here:

Jonathan Gaughler On Warhol Artwork Recovery

andywarholmuseum 2374853 CMU Computer Club Discovers Digital Works By Andy Warhol
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(Photo by Archie Carpenter/Getty Images)

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