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In this thesis I investigate the interworking and influences of the United States’ federal copyright legislation, specifically its relationship to the history of artistic production from the late nineteenth-century to the present. A detailed analysis of the evolving copyright statute, the social and legal impact of the multiple (including the counterfeit copy), and the progressive recurrence of representational money paintings will reveal the mutually dependent relationship of copyright legislation and artistic production. The progression of styles in America art—nineteenth-century trompe l’oeil illusionism, mid-century Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, and contemporary appropriation art—provides an illustrated roadmap of the complex relationship between the law, visual and consumer culture, and money. I will use this roadmap to reinterpret the work of Andy Warhol and propose that his art making was fundamentally influenced by the tenets of American copyright legislation. To visualize the intricate relationship between art and the law, I trace the progression of the American money painting, and its divisive other, the counterfeit, to illustrate the economic incentive of aesthetic originality and federal copyright legislation. Moreover, I assert that Warhol’s often-segregated late work (1980s) can be cohesively connected to the core of his immense oeuvre when viewed through this legal lens.
Advisor: Marissa Vigneault