Coinciding with Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at the Tate Modern, The Culture Show is featuring Roy Lichtenstein, the American pop artist best known for recreating, or plagiarizing according to some, comic book panels.
Host Alastair Sooke examines his seminal work, Look Mickey (1961):
Here, as if from nowhere, were the hallmarks of his pop style, signature look: flat colors, restrained palette, bold outlines, and actually the use of dots as well to mimic mechanically reproduced imagery. The kind of stuff you’d see in pictures, in newspapers, in magazines. And by doing that, by imitating the real world everyday culture, he was bringing reality into the realm of fine art in a way that the abstract expressionists hadn’t done before him.
On Palatinate, Suzanne Lithgo adds:
What differentiates Lichtenstein from his contemporaries is that he interpreted reality. Andy Warhol depicted reality as it was, by using brand items like Coca Cola and Campbell’s soup, and icons like Marilyn Monroe. However, Lichtenstein used common items without branding, and gave his characters generic names, such as Brad in his ‘Masterpiece’ painted in 1962. This painting, taken from a comic strip and altered by Lichtenstein, perhaps pre-empted Lichtenstein’s future success as an artist. In the same year Lichtenstein had his first one-man show in the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and would soon have the city clamouring for his work.
Sooke also points out the seeming lack of identity in a Roy Lichtenstein self-portrait that consists of generic items like no-name t-shirt and plain looking mirror against a largely blank background, yet it’s instantly recognizable as a Lichtenstein.
“You could define the paradox of his paintings as Lichtenstein’s law,” says Sooke. “When an artist creates an unmistakable style by appearing vanish into thin air.”