Thursday, May 10, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

Roy Lichtenstein, Look Mickey, 1961, oil on canvas, Dorothy and Roy Lichtenstein, Gift of the Artist, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art

In the first major exhibition since Roy Lichtenstein's death in 1997, some 130 of the artist's greatest paintings from all periods of his career will be presented along with a selection of related drawings and sculptures. This retrospective frames Lichtenstein's expansive legacy, from the classic early Pop paintings based on comic-book treatments of war and romance through subsequent series, including Brushstrokes, Art Deco, Modern, Mirrors, Entabulatures, Reflections, Interiors, and Chinese Landscapes. Over the course of his career, Lichtenstein's work has been the subject of more than 240 solo exhibitions, the last full survey having been organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1993.

One of the key figures in the history of so-called pop art, Roy Lichtenstein shared with his contemporary Andy Warhol a fascination for the visual languages of printed mass media and consumer culture during the 1960s. Lichtenstein was especially preoccupied with cheap newspaper advertising and cartoon or comic book illustration, which he enlarged and transposed—making subtle alterations—directly into paint on canvas. At the time the simplistic narratives and boldly graphic visual mannerisms of comics and advertising were understood to resist the powerful postwar legacy of abstract expressionist painting—the highly subjective processes and grand claims for psychic content that characterized the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and other New York School artists whose achievement had recently placed American art at the center of a world stage.

Substituting the banalities of resolutely flat printed commercial imagery in black, white, red, yellow, and blue for layered, complex, rarefied efforts in large-scale abstraction, pop art, by implication, also challenged the conventional hierarchies of visual "art." Widely recognized as Lichtenstein's first painting to employ cartoon imagery, Look Mickey shows a scene adapted from the 1960 children's book Donald Duck Lost and Found. In Lichtenstein's transformation of the storybook illustration, the composition is simplified and rendered in the bold outlines and primary colors of a mass-produced image, making it appear even more "pop" than the original picture.

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and Tate Modern, London, in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective
The Art Institute of Chicago, May 16–September 3, 2012
National Gallery of Art, Washington, October 14, 2012–January 13, 2013
Tate Modern, London, February 21–May 27, 2013