Double Elvis, 1963/1976
Silkscreen ink, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
American, 1928 – 1987
Each panel: 82 1/4 x 59 1/8in. (208.9 x 150.2cm)
Double Elvis, 1963, consists of two large panels covered with silver paint. One of the panels bears a full and a partial silk-screened photographic image of Elvis Presley (1935-1977), dressed as a cowboy and holding a gun that he points at the image’s viewers. The other panel is blank. Warhol decided to add the blank panel several years after the first image was created. The partial silk-screened photo is suggestive of Elvis appearing out of and disappearing into the blank panel, as if he were a ghost figure. The full image is cut off slightly on the bottom left corner, which suggests the continuation and repetition of the image beyond the borders of the canvas. Several versions of Double Elvis exist in private and public art collections worldwide, although each version is slightly different. In the version of Double Elvis in the Tate Modern’s collection in London, for example, the silk-screened image appears intact in a single panel. Warhol was inspired by Elvis Presley’s successful 1960 film “Flaming Star,” in which the singer-actor played a half-white, half-Native American struggling between two cultures.
The Double Elvis in SAM’s collection is a prime example of Warhol’s early photographic silkscreen technique. The artist began to experiment with silk-screens in 1962, producing primarily a contemporary take on still-life subject matter, namely Campbell soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. Warhol continued his exploration of the subliminal powers of advertising and commercial imagery through repetition and by placing common objects out of context.