Monday, 18 February 2013

Lichtenstein's Pop Perception

He helped to create the hip New York art world in the Sixties, giving a face to an era. By elevating comics into art, Lichtenstein became the spirit of his times with incredible wit. Now we can admire the evolution of this amazing artist at Tate Modern, which is exhibiting a retrospective of his work.

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam! 1963
Roy Lichtenstein, Oh Jeff... I love you to... But... 1964
Collection Simonyi © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

Based on imagery from popular culture such as comic books, advertisements clipped from newspaper and telephone books, he has created his own language to express the world around him. At first glance, his art may seem slightly superficial but if observed further it unveils a series of discussions.

From confining gender roles to the impact of the Vietnam war on the American psyche and the consumer revolution, it is inevitable to see some open questions through all those dots and primary colours. 

Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece 1962
Roy Lichtenstein, Masterpiece 1962
Private Collection 
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

Lichtenstein initially made his own stencils to apply dots on the painting, one of his trademarks. They help to create optical effects and subvert the scale of objects, there's even a self-portrait in which the artist has replaced his own head with a stencil. 

"Art relates to perception, not nature." Roy Lichtenstein

This exhibition features his homage to the artists of the past whether through appropriation, stylisation or parody. There's also a room dedicated to his depictions of the female body and it's interesting to know he didn't use live models but selected characters from his archive of comic clippings.

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam! 1963
Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam! 1963
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

"We rose up slowly... As if we didn't belong to the outside world any longer... Like swimmers in a shadowy dream... Who didn't need to breathe..." Roy Lichtenstein

In 'we rose up slowly' (1964), he is able to convey a serene state of bliss which also exudes from his late work inspired by the simplicity of Chinese landscape art.  This inspiring retrospective not only induces precious moments of abstraction but also allows us to travel back in time. But Lichtenstein's iconic work is paradoxically beyond time and I'm sure it will continue to inspire future generations.  


Lichtenstein: A Retrospective
21 February - 27 May 2013

Curated by Sheena Wagstaff 
Chairman of the Modern and Contemporary Art Department
The Metropolitain Museum of Art, New York 

& Iria Candela
Assistant Curator, Tate Modern

Other related blog posts:
Man Ray: Capturing the Unseen
Manet: Portraying Life
Dress in Black & White Graphics