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Celebrity

See how Pop artists seized on and critiqued celebrity culture.


Double Elvis

Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987)

1963. Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 6' 11" x 53" (210.8 x 134.6 cm)

In the early 1960s, Andy Warhol turned to celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Elizabeth Taylor as artistic subject matter. He produced several life-sized portraits of Elvis Presley, America’s most famous rock and roll singer and sex symbol throughout the 1950s. By 1963, when this painting was made, Elvis—whose hip-shaking moves had scandalized some only a decade before—was being overshadowed by a new generation of performers, and his career was on the decline.

In Double Elvis, Warhol created a strobe effect by overlapping two images of the singer—most likely sourced from a publicity still for the Western film Flaming Star (1960). The silver background conveys a sense of glamour, while also serving a practical purpose—the opacity of the spray paint allowed Warhol to easily mask and silkscreen multiple images on top of each other. Double Elvis originally belonged to a long, continuous canvas of Elvises that was later cut and stretched into multiple paintings. The artist’s interest in film might explain why he created Elvis in double—the singer/actor appears to be moving back and forth, as if in a film strip.

Nat Finkelstein. Andy, Bob Dylan, and Elvis. 1965. Photograph © Nat Finkelstein.

Nat Finkelstein. Andy, Bob Dylan, and Elvis. 1965. Photograph © Nat Finkelstein.

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

The visual or narrative focus of a work of art.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent.

Fast bursts of intermittent light used to illuminate moving subjects.

A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.

A representation of a particular individual.

Impenetrable to the passage of light.

The area of an artwork that appears farthest away from the viewer; also, the area against which a figure or scene is placed.

The Factory
In 1962, Warhol founded “The Factory,” his 47th Street Manhattan studio (which later moved downtown to Union Square), where he surrounded himself with artists, musicians, writers, and underground “superstars” who helped him make paintings, sculptures, and films. Collaboration would remain an essential, yet controversial, element of Warhol’s entire artistic career.

Multimedia

SLIDESHOW: See visitor’s snapshots of Warhol artworks in the MoMA galleries. Contribute to this Flickr set by tagging your photos “Warhol MoMA.”