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A Critique of Peter Max’s Versions of The Mona Lisa

The second piece of artwork chosen is by the artist Peter Max and he displays his version of the iconic Mona Lisa. Peter Max’s versions are titled Mona Lisa, Version I #4 and Mona Lisa, Version I #5, respectively. The Mona Lisa is one of the most iconic and the most recognized portrait around the world. This particular portrait is known for the woman’s mysterious smile as well as the unknown identity of the woman in the portrait. Through Max’s versions of the renowned painting, he encourages the viewers to reexamine and interpret the embodiment of the woman’s beautiful features as well as her enigmatic stare.

One way that is able to aid in the analysis of these pieces of work is the biographical analysis. There are numerous speculations about the ambiguity of the Mona Lisa along with the history that comes with it. In order to analyze Max’s work, more information would need to be provided to further understand why he had chose to create his own versions of the iconic Mona Lisa painting. In Peter Max’s versions of this iconic portrait, he uses a variety of colors and hues as well as altering the background of the portrait can also skew the interpretation or meaning of the original.

As I did further research on this particular artist, he is mostly well known as a pop culture icon. He has inspired many with the use of his bold colors, images, and an uncommon artistic diversity in American culture. Most of his work features icons and symbols in his work, which in this instance, he uses the icon Mona Lisa. Many of his paintings included American icons and symbols such as presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and others. He also features images of famous celebrities, politicians, and other popular culture subjects and events in his work.

Now knowing more background information about the artist, my interpretation of Max’s Mona Lisa, Version I #4 and Mona Lisa, Version I #5 is to merely celebrate the renowned portrait and its demonstration of high culture as it still remains popular after centuries because of the ambiguous symbolism within the painting of the Mona Lisa. In my opinion and through observations, the work seems to be calculated. Since Max is well known for using bold colors and showing most or all of the colors of the spectrum. I believe that Peter Max’s purpose of creating these works of art was to transform the ordinary as well as change the ideas of art as a whole. As a pop culture artist, the goal was tarnish the boundaries of low and high culture and that art can be borrowed from almost anywhere, hence the fact that Max borrows most of his work from pop culture events or subjects.

Questions that have been brought to my attention is that if there is any purpose to the use of colors and why those colors in particular. Are they unrelated to the interpretation or meaning of the original painting? Is the background significant in any way in these pieces of work? Other than making a point about low and high culture and its boundaries it is possible to make a reasoned statement about the artist’s aim as it serves its purpose by using a very familiar painting that is known around the world and is recognizable to many generations. Max was able to borrow an idea and was inspired to refresh this well known painting from centuries ago and made something new out of it.

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