“I bet you can’t paint as good as that, eh, Dad?” is the simple query which had such profound affect upon Lichtenstein’s entire career. His son had challenged him with an image of Mickey Mouse. The artist duly responded by creating ‘Look Mickey’ in 1961 using the experimental dot patterning technique referred to as Ben-Day dots, which would become the hallmark of his work. This printing technique was derived from the form that served as the premise for Lichtenstein’s work, the comic books of the 1950’s & 1960’s. Using Oils & magna paint alongside bold colours with thick outlines Lichtenstein was successful in creating instantly recognisable images, which propelled him to fame in the 1960’s.
Producing works based on comic strips, brands & popular culture had marked a change of direction for the artist as he had previously focused on the abstract expressionism movement in america at that time. This exciting shift of direction captured the art scene who had become preoccupied with the postwar anguish of earlier generations. The 1960’s was a time of transition & Litchtenstein was able to introduce a different style that was later to become known as pop art, with a sell-out show at the Castelli gallery of New York in 1962.
<< Look Mickey (1961)
One of his most famous images, Whaam! (1963) refers to the wartime, whilst detaching its audience from the subject matter with the addition of text-driven narrative and comic book appearance. Placing this controversial & often dejecting matter within a comical sphere served to engage & stimulate its viewer who relate to the painting through the characters created. This was a refreshing approach, which assisted in moving beyond the initial conceptions associated with such events.
The Tate Modern achieves the title ‘Retrospective’ by showcasing the different phases of Lichtenstein’s work. From his 60s cartoons we are also presented with the theme of romance that was so prevalent in his collection. The beautiful characters depicted live their lives forever reenacted for all to sample. Brad, Jeff & the unnamed blonde beauty vow to continue their ongoing pursuit of love encompassing excitement, sadness & betrayal as the pain, tears & smiles are documented within each frame.
An art form that was initially felt to have limited scope was continually reinvented to achieve the longevity it reached. This ability to adapt served him well as when the furore of pop art began to descend Lichenstein produced works reminiscent of Picasso, Monet, Sylvador Dali as well as Mondrian whilst retaining his distinct style. Many were given the Lichtenstein touch by being reworked into interesting comments on art history.
Lichtenstein found chinese landscapes to be worthy of reworking, which were to be his last offerings before he died in 1997. These created in the 1990s also feature in the show. A sculptural element exists in this exhibition as his icons are on occasions brought into the 3-dimensional world. The Tate Modern displays a striking overview of one of the most controversial & forward thinking artists of his time spanning an entire 37 year career.
Entry - £15.50
We rose up slowly (1964) Oh, Jeff... I Love you, too...But... (1964)
Torpedo Los! (1963) Varoom! (1963)
The Red Horseman (1974) Head with Blue Shadow (1965)