Sunday, May 4, 2014

The 'Wham!' of Roy Lichtenstein's Prints

You can love him or not, but you can't ignore him. Roy Lichtenstein's prints are signature works during the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. His simplistic use of only 20 colors during his career is interesting by itself, but the complexity of the images and the way he maneuvered himself seamlessly out of the Pop art period to explore other icons of the 20th c. was and is a fascinating education in how an artist teaches himself to become a better artist.
Roy Fox Lichtenstein 1923 –1997 was a part of the American Pop Art movement. During the 1960s, he became a leading figure in the new American-dominated movement, along with fellow artists Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist. Using comic strips as his main inspiration, Lichtenstein created tongue-in-cheek, hard-edged compositions in clean, crisp primary colors. His work was also heavily influenced by popular advertising. He described pop art as "not 'American' painting but actually industrial painting". During his career, Lichtenstein made over 300 prints, mostly in screen printing.
Lichtenstein was born in New York City, into an upper-middle-class Jewish family, where his father was a real estate broker, and his mother, a homemaker. He attended public school for a time, then enrolled at New York's Franklin School for Boys. Lichtenstein first became interested in art and design as a hobby, and then through school. In 1939, Lichtenstein enrolled in summer classes at the Art Students League of New York, where he worked under Reginald Marsh. Being an avid fan of jazz music, he frequently drew portraits of Harlem’s Apollo Theater jazz musicians while playing their instruments.
Lichtenstein went to study art at the Ohio State University. His studies were interrupted for three years (1943-1946) while he served as an orderly, draftsman, and artist in the Army during and after World War II. He returned home to visit his dying father and was discharged from the army with eligibility for the G.I. Bill. He returned to OSU and studied under Hoyt L. Sherman, who is widely regarded to have had a significant impact on his work (Lichtenstein would later name a studio the Hoyt L. Sherman Studio Art Center after his mentor). Lichtenstein continued his graduate studies at OSU, was hired as an art instructor, and received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1949.

In 1957, he moved to upstate New York and began teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego. In 1960, he started teaching at Rutgers University alongside Allan Kaprow. In 1961-1965, Lichtenstein began his first pop images using cartoons and commercial printing techniques. Leo Castelli started displaying his work at his gallery in New York in 1961 and he had his first one-man show in 1962; the entire collection was bought by influential collectors before the show even opened. In September 1963 he took a leave of absence from teaching to focus time on his artwork.
"I think my work is different from comic strips -- but I wouldn't call it transformation; I don't think that whatever is meant by it is important to art".
Lichtenstein reproduced masterpieces by C├ęzanne, Mondrian and Picasso before embarking on his Brushstroke series in 1965. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art commissioned him to make a film with the help of Universal Film Studios. It was called Three Landscapes, about marine landscapes, directly related to a series of collages with landscape themes he created between 1964 - 1966.
Also in 1970, Lichtenstein purchased a former carriage house in Southampton, Long Island, built a studio on the property, and spent the rest of the 1970s in relative seclusion. Over the next ten years his style began to loosen and he expanded on what he had done before.
During a trip to Los Angeles in 1978, Lichtenstein was fascinated by lawyer Robert Rifkind's collection of German Expressionist prints and illustrated books. Small colored-pencil drawings were used as templates for woodcuts, a medium favored by Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein, as well as Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. A major series of Surrealist-Pop artwork from 1979–81 is based on Native American themes. Having been inspired by Edgar Degas’ monochromatic prints from a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he created the motifs of his Landscapes in the Chinese Style series are formed with simulated Benday dots and block contours, rendered in hard, vivid color, with all traces of the hand removed.

Lichtenstein married twice, once to Isabel Wilson, with whom he had two sons, and again to Dorothy Herzka. From 1970 until his death, Lichtenstein split his time between Manhattan and Southampton. He also had a home on Captiva Island. He was committed to his art until the end of his life, often spending at least 10 hours a day in his studio. In 1997, he died of pneumonia in New York.
Commissions
1964 New York State Pavilion, World's Fair, New York City.
1969 bedroom suite painting for Gunter Sachs, Palace Hotel, St. Moritz.
late 1970s - 1980s, major commissions for works in public places: the sculptures in Miami Beach; at Port Columbus International Airport; the Equitable Center, New York; and Barcelona.
1994 Times Square Mural , Times Square subway station.
1977 paint a Group 5 Racing Version of the BMW 320i for the BMW Art Car Project.
1977 Skowhegan Medal for Painting, Skowhegan School, Skowhegan, Maine.
1979 American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
1989 American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy. Artist in residence.
1991 Creative Arts Award in Painting, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.
1993 Amici de Barcelona, from Mayor Pasqual Maragall, L’Alcalde de Barcelona.
1995 Kyoto Prize, Inamori Foundation, Kyoto, Japan.
1995 National Medal of the Arts, Washington D.C.
The DreamWorks Records logo – last design project

Awards
1995 National Medal of Arts

Education
Parsons School of Design, The Ohio State University, Art Students League, Franklin School for Boys (now Dwight School)
Honorary Doctorate degrees:
George Washington University (1996),Bard College, Royal College of Art (1993), Ohio State University (1987), Southampton College (1980), and the California Institute of the Arts (1977).

Exhibitions
1967 first museum retrospective exhibition, Pasadena Art Museum, CA
1967 first solo exhibition in Europe at museums in Amsterdam, London, Bern and Hannover
1968 participated in documenta IV
1977 participated in documenta VI
1994 second retrospective, the Guggenheim Museum, NY
1987 first living artist to have a solo drawing exhibition, Museum of Modern Art from
2010 "Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art" Museo Triennale, Milan
2010 The Morgan Library & Museum
2012 major retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago, National Gallery of Art in Washington, Tate Modern
2013 major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris
Collections
1996 the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. – largest single repository
The Art Institute of Chicago
Dorothy Lichtenstein, and of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Collection



1 comment: