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Elvis Presley #1 (Oedipus)

A work made of offset lithograph in black on tan wove paper, with brush and red ink and matte opaque red and blue paint, on board.

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  • A work made of offset lithograph in black on tan wove paper, with brush and red ink and matte opaque red and blue paint, on board.

Date:

1956-58

Artist:

Ray Johnson
American, 1927-1995

About this artwork

To make this work, Ray Johnson began with a photograph of Elvis Presley in profile, his eyes downcast and shrouded in shadow. Johnson then covered the work in red tempera, letting the paint drip down around the singer’s sinister sockets, evoking both blood and tears. In doing so, Johnson tethered Elvis, a cult figure of the present, to one from the mythological past: Oedipus, who gouged out his eyes to atone for committing patricide and incest. Works like Elvis Presley #1 situate Johnson among the earliest pioneers of Pop Art. In the 1960s Andy Warhol also gravitated to Elvis’s photographic likeness, incorporating it into silkscreened grids that commented on celebrity culture through the repetition and degredation of popular imagery.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Prints and Drawings

Artist

Ray Johnson

Title

Elvis Presley #1 (Oedipus)

Place

United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

1956–1958

Medium

Offset lithograph in black on tan wove paper, with brush and red ink and matte opaque red and blue paint, on board

Dimensions

27.7 × 21 cm (10 15/16 × 8 5/16 in.)

Credit Line

Promised gift of The William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson

Reference Number

Obj: 248595

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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