• Lichtenstein_whaam!!_1963

    Roy Lichtenstein: Whaam! (1963) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Art

Stunning new Roy Lichtenstein retrospective is a journey through his preoccupations

Posted by Rob Alderson,

In the very final room of the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective, which opens tomorrow at Tate Modern, there is something completely unexpected. It contains five paintings, completed in the year before the painter’s death in 1997, inspired by work from the Song dynasty (960 to 1270).With their Benday dots, these strange works are recognisably Lichtensteins but they are also incredibly faithful homages to a certain style of oriental art.

Of course in the internet age, almost all artists are often reduced to one or two famous works, aesthetic shorthands which render these huge talents immediately recognisable to the mainstream. In Lichtenstein’s case these are of course the comic-book inspired works created in his so-called War and Romance years, and one of the largest rooms in the show is given over to these seminal pop-art pieces, including the world- famous Whaam!

  • 008new

    Roy Lichtenstein: Step-on Can With Leg (1961) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

But as curator Sheena Wagstaff pointed out this week, this work represents only seven years of Lichtenstein’s career – he was working for three more decades after the 1960s. The Chinese paintings are just one of many manifestations of Lichtenstein’s talent of which I was embarrassingly unaware. There is a room of nudes, a series of paintings dedicated to reimagining other woks of art – Picassso, Monet and the Laocoön sculpture at the Vatican. There are studio scenes, landscapes, some wonderful still-lifes (one features three brilliantly morose goldfish) and a series of monochrome paintings based on illustrations of everyday objects – a tyre, a golf-ball, an Alka Selzer dropped into a glass of water.

For Sheena through all these phases, what Lichtenstein “is trying to achieve as a painter is the same.” His works are not facsimiles of existing images, rather he co-opts them to his own ends, to make the point that “in a media-saturated moment everything has been mediated, it’s a copy of a copy of a copy.”

“He thought I cannot deliver a la Pollock so here’s this product that contains this emotionalism.”

James Rondeau

The fun comes, she says, in trying to “unpick the riddle” and in this context the revelation that Lichtenstein was never a fan of comics or cartoonists is less surprising than it might otherwise have been. His obsession is not with this or that kind of imagery, but rather the whole hierarchy whereby some images are accorded so much more value and significance than others.

The key to understanding this artist, says co curator James Rondeau is to see Lichtenstein’s redirection towards pop art from abstract expressionism as a move rooted in pragmatism, which then developed into a fully fledged philosophy. “He thought I cannot deliver a la Pollock so here’s this product that contains this emotionalism. It became about the stylisation of style itself.”

It’s a joyous, colourful show well worth a visit if you’re in London, if only to convince you that Lichtenstien isn’t just about the comics.

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is at Tate Modern until May 27.

  • Lichtenstein_brushstokewithspatter_1966

    Roy Lichtenstein: Brushstroke with Spatter (1966) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Lichtenstein_masterpiece_1962

    Roy Lichtenstein: Masterpiece (1962) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Lichtenstein_landscapeinfog_1996

    Roy Lichtenstein: Landscape in Fog (1996) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Lichtenstein_ohjeffiloveyoutoobut_1964

    Roy Lichtenstein: Oh Jeff I Love You Too But… (1964) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Rlp_056r7_83f

    Roy Lichtenstein: Seascape (1965) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Lichtenstein_bluenude_1995

    Roy Lichtenstein: Blue Nude (1995) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • 051new

    Roy Lichtenstein: Still Life With Goldfish (1972) Image copyright Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. List

    I have no idea who Mr G.G.Hines is. And yet I am standing surrounded by junk staring at his black leather passport holder. I am transfixed by it; lost in reveries about who he was, where he travelled to and what his handwriting – neat, confident but not fussy – says about him. I am also wondering how his passport came to be here, and the answer to that begins with Dan Tobin Smith.

  2. List

    Three years ago at the London Design Festival, the Bouroullec Brothers transformed the Raphael Cartoons gallery at the V&A by installing a huge textile-covered platform down the centre of the vast room. It became a playful, very human space in the heart of one of London’s most august institutions, and remains one of the most talked-about festival projects of recent years.

  3. Main

    GIFs are usually reserved for that corner of the internet preoccupied with getting a quick laugh out of an easy audience (us included) so it’s surprisingly poignant to see the popular form employed not to show how funny a dog walking on its hind legs can be but to express a more powerful idea. This is exactly what Sofia Niazi has done with her new project Women of WOT. She wanted to utilise the medium to tell the unheard stories of the women forgotten by the War on Terror, but soon found that her project took a unexpected turn.

  4. Main9

    Just when you thought the only time you’d get to see some fruit getting jiggy with each other was the last time you ate a Moam bar, here’s Amelie von Wulffen’s paintings. Amelie’s work is a refreshing, sometimes sinister, sometimes sexual series of water-colour paintings depicting a strange mixture of food and tools interacting with each other as if they were humans – eating ice cream and going to music concerts and the like. As well as reducing mankind down to what it really is – a bunch of ridiculous creatures bumbling around the earth – Amelie’s real success here is bringing dark comedy into the largely unfunny art world, and for that she should be praised.

  5. List

    We’ve long maintained that to really get to know how a creative’s mind works, it’s best to explore their personal work, which often tells you much more than their professional portfolio. Another good example of this comes from London-based identity designer Iancu Barbarasa, who works under the name Iancul, and his terrific new Drawriting project, which “turns thoughts and their letters into visual puzzles.”

  6. Main9

    Co-founders of Dastoli Digital Robert and James were huge fans of Star Wars in the late 1990s, recreating hundreds of images from comics, books and game graphics on Microsoft Paintbrush using the Windows 3.1 operating system. In the run-up to the release of Star Wars Episode VII which will come out on 18 December 2015 they’re releasing an image a day from this seemingly bottomless archive, giving fellow fans a glimpse of their fantastic attention to detail and brilliantly retro colour palette.

  7. List-2

    Anna Valdez is the kind of artist who makes me want to swathe myself and everything around me in layers of tropical prints and geometric patterns and embrace a new sartorial existence as a wannabe art teacher. Her mastery of textiles is so thorough that some of her pieces almost feel like studies, an effect which makes sense considering her academic interests. With a background in anthropology she paints domestic interiors as though they were portraits, with every detail contributing to the overall effect, whether it be house plants, intricately reproduced book covers, woolly jumpers or oriental rugs.

  8. List

    Australian artist Kit Webster is has long been fascinated with the emotional and psychological tricks he can play through the manipulation of sound and light. His new piece Hypercube is a concentric cubic sculpture with a 120-metre LED set-up that can be controlled using specially-created software. The pre-recorded cycles allow Kit to control the viewer’s experience, speeding the cube up to a frenzy and breaking the tension with meditative moments of calm.

  9. Main

    Apologies if this is a slightly dismayed post, but upon thinking I had stumbled across a gem via Nieves’ announcement of some new zines I was excited to be the first to write about Keegan McHargue on It’s Nice That. Alas I was not, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t shout about his brilliance once more.

  10. List

    When I was a teenager I’d have given my right arm for patches emblazoned with the lyrics of my favourite songs. It was the height of cool to be covered in brightly-coloured band paraphernalia (or at least I thought so). German artist Selma Alaçam clearly thought so too as her latest project Heartstrings combines some of her favourite song lyrics from the likes of Fiona Apple and Depeche Mode. The seven woven rugs – based on the traditional kelim, native to Turkey – have been hand-embroidered with bold typographic verses, whose personal importance is known only to the artist. To the rest of us these embroideries are like beautifully ambiguous album covers, enticing you in with their bright, bold colours.

  11. List

    It’s plain to see that Lee Marshall’s artwork is a product of the digital age; his smooth gradients, vectorised objects and figures apparently created in an early version of Corel Draw all evoke the atmosphere of an abstract digital landscape. But Lee’s creations all exist in the real world as paintings, drawings and sculptures, bringing a unique physicality to environments we’d expect to experience on a flat screen. The Norwich School of Art graduate has been perfecting this signature style since his student days, but with an ever-increasing list of group and solo shows to his name we’re expecting more great things from Lee over the coming months and years.

  12. List

    Let’s all give a big round of applause to the people behind Instagram who, in creating a convenient photo-based social media outlet, also paved the way for Instagram artists. If Instagram is the Impressionist salon of our time, then right at the forefront of this digital gallery is Kalen Hollomon, whose own brand of photo-collage is a tongue-in-cheek giggle at both the fashion industry and at commuters in general, and is hugely popular with it.

  13. List

    It’s fair to say that Interview magazine, founded by Andy Warhol in 1969, had some serious sway over popular culture throughout the 1970s and 80s. With its pop art-driven aesthetic and its constant pursuit of features with the superstars of the day it has grown to occupy seminal status. And this is due in no small part to Richard Bernstein, the artist behind the publication’s iconic cover imagery.