Art inspired by art through the eyes of Lichtenstein

Did you know that Roy Lichtenstein’s Look Mickey was the first pop painting?

Art critics deem that he knew he was onto something with this style painting and was inferring “hey, look at me.” Well, he had good instincts because he was onto something, and eventually became one of the most important American pop artists of our time.

Lichtenstein’s work was inspired by not only comic strips, but also 1950s and 1960s advertisements and the work of other famous artists at the time, such as Henry Matisse and others. His work is best known for the half-tone dots found in commercial advertising, which he reproduced, very meticulously, by hand. He celebrated the intersection of commercial art and fine art. It’s very impressive to see it in person; now that I have a better understanding his point of view as an artist and have seen his masterpieces in person, I am huge fan of his work. My favorite piece is the glass with Alka-Seltzer, shown below, which was done by pencil because to me represents the core of Lichtenstein’s work, his brand so to speak. I adore how he even included the effervescence effect at the top of the glass by erasing some of the dots.

He used a lot of humor in his work and often did a parody of whichever work he was inspired by. He began his career using a striped down palette where he replicated many everyday objects (magnifying glass, hot dog, radio) using his own simplified visual language. Meaning there was a particular visual code for which he would represent real-like elements, such as reflection, light, shadow, or movement. In the beginning he also dabbled with a little bit of Abstract Expressionism, which wasn’t his big focus by came in and out throughout his career. At the height of his career, he painted distressed, overly dramatic women and young men at war using a more evolved color-palette, his half-tone technique, and even painted type. Not long after, he became more abstract again and replicated paint brush strokes in his particular style and then moved into landscapes often filled with half-tone dots and playing with different materials such as metal. Later, he did some cubist-like paintings, dabbled in sculpture, created a series of abstract line paintings and a beach series, and lastly produced more landscape work this time mimicking asian landscape paintings. I appreciate how Lichtenstein shares with the viewer his take or response to the subject at hand allowing for a dose of humor here and there, and I am utterly impressed by his execution which often appeared as though it was created by a machine rather than by hand. His work is utterly captivating and make an enormous impact on Pop Art movement.

The Lichtenstein retrospective is currently being exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, as a part of BIGART 2012 in Chicago, you can spot some–160 in fact!–of Roy’s sculptures throughout the city. BIGART celebrates art by showcasing works from international renowned artists in public outdoor places so they are available for all to enjoy.

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