Essay on Postmodern Art in Andy Warhol´s Silvier Liz as Cleopatra

Essay on Postmodern Art in Andy Warhol´s Silvier Liz as Cleopatra

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The earliest forms of art had made it’s mark in history for being an influential and unique representation of various cultures and religions as well as playing a fundamental role in society. However, with the new era of postmodernism, art slowly deviated away from both the religious context it was originally created in, and apart from serving as a ritual function. Walter Benjamin, a German literary critic and philosopher during the 1900’s, strongly believed that the mass production of pieces has freed art from the boundaries of tradition, “For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependance on ritual” (Benjamin 1992). This particular excerpt has a direct correlation with the work of Andy Warhol, specifically “Silver Liz as Cleopatra.” Andy Warhol’s rendition of Elizabeth Taylor are prime examples of the shift in art history that Benjamin refers to as the value of this particular piece is based upon its mass production, and appropriation of iconic images and people.
“Silver Liz as Cleopatra” is a piece completed by Warhol in 1963 and is currently on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. This specific painting portrays actress Elizabeth Taylor as the lead role of Cleopatra, the highest grossing film of 1963. Silver paint, and silkscreen ink and pencil on linen were all used in union to achieve the final result. Here the recurring images of the queen of the silver screen resemble a strip of film or a number of inexpensive and quick snap shots from a photo booth. The representation of Hollywood stars in his works were not an uncommon subject for Warhol as he was infatuated with the world of celebrities. His ability to utilize the methods and techniques...


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...he era of postmodernism altered the face of art, taking it away from both the religious and ritual context it was originally made for. Warhol was able to create a sense of value in his art by linking illusion of scarcity and inimitability of brand names and branded famous faces to pop art. Through works such as “Silver Liz as Cleopatra,” Warhol had single handedly gave new meaning to art by exploiting a recognized figure of mass culture for the consumption of society. To be specific, the value in “Silver Liz as Cleopatra” is embedded in its mass production and the authentic and genuine appeal of a media icon. Warhol’s take on Elizabeth Taylor defines the transformation in art history that Walter Benjamin alludes to. The value of “Silver Liz as Cleopatra” is not based on its abidance of tradition, but based on its mass production in pop culture, and iconic existence. 

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