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What?! Views : Lichtenstein: A Retrospect | Tate Modern

 | Category: Culture

When people reference Pop Art, the two main names that will appear are Warhol and Lichtenstein. Their iconic imagery defined an era of art that up to this date, is still influential and relevant as ever. Although in it’s last week, the Lichtenstein retrospect at the Tate Modern, is without a doubt a visual treat and education in one of the pioneers of pop art.

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997  Brushstroke with Spatter 1966  The Art Institute of Chicago, Barbara Neff Smith and Solomon Byron Smith Purchase Fund  © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Brushstroke with Spatter 1966
The Art Institute of Chicago, Barbara Neff Smith and Solomon Byron Smith Purchase Fund
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

As a central figure of American pop art, Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) is without a doubt one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. The retrospect begins with a series of paintings entitled “Brushstrokes,” seen as a parody of abstract expressionism, yet defined by Lichtenstein as “the depiction of a grand gesture.”

The exhibition moves on through Lichtenstein’s early pop paintings, including “Look Mickey.” It’s this style of painting, imitating that of comic books, that set the pace for Lichtenstein’s further career as an artist. By 1961 he had begun to incorporate images from popular culture into his work, for example, comic books and advertisements clipped from newspapers and telephone books.

What is distinctly memorable and exciting to see, are the pieces of art from Lichtenstein that aren’t as prevalent nor heavily circulated. This includes Roy Lichetenstein’s work in black and white, depicting everyday items.

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997  Whaam! 1963  Tate  © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Whaam! 1963
Tate
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

It is also important to note Lichtenstein’s relationship with artists of the past, which allowed him to engage in historical artistic styles, whether it be impressionism, futurism and surrealism, creating parodies or stylised versions of Picasso, Matisse and Piet Mondrian.

The end of the exhibitions features a range of pieces entitled ‘Chinese Landscapes’ and it’s evident to see an artistic and sophisticated growth for the artist, creating subdued yet equally beautiful landscape pieces. Throughout the exhibition you can understand Lichenstein’s techniques, especially that of the use of dots, whether it’s on an early sunset image or these aforementioned landscapes. A subtle nod to art deco also comes in large metal sculptures, truly reflecting Lichtenstein’s surroundings as inspiration.

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997  Landscape in Fog 1996  Private Collection  © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Landscape in Fog 1996
Private Collection
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

We walked through the exhibition, and completely missed the room with Lichtenstein’s classic comic strip prints including ‘Whaam!’, and we’re happy we re-visited this last. It’s intriguing and informative to view all of Lichenstein’s other pieces before returning to those that he is most famed and replicated for. In fact, you gain a much deeper knowledge of the artist through viewing everything aside from his most popular pieces.

From start to finish, you gain a true introspect in how Lichtenstein’s surroundings and cultural happenings influenced his creative process, whether it be war or the rise of art deco. His art is a true capture of pop culture relevance throughout his active years and a must see before it finishes.

by David Mahoney | Online Editor | david.mahoney@what-mag.co.uk

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