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Roy Lichtenstein
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Russell Young

Roy Lichtenstein

b. 1928. New York d. 1997 New York, USA
1946 BFA Ohio State University
1949 MFA Ohio State University

A central figure in the Pop Art movement, Roy Lichtenstein created one of the most recognisable visual languages of the twentieth century.

Like his contemporary Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein was interested in the images and machine-made visual language of everyday pop culture. Starting with Look Mickey in 1961 and throughout the 1960s, Lichtenstein produced paintings inspired by comic strips, consumer products and advertising campaigns. In 1961, Leo Castelli exhibited Lichtenstein's work in New York. In 1962 the artist had his first solo show at the Castelli gallery, influential collectors purchased all the works before the exhibition even opened.

Lichtenstein transformed his source material; cropping and reducing the image, employing a palette of primary colours, changing the composition and perspective, while adding text infused with wit and humour. His signature style included painted Ben-day dots; replicating the appearance of a uniform printing technique used in pulp comic books. While he sought the appearance of commercial and industrial production, his initial technique was very much handcrafted. He began making the Ben-day dot effect by dipping a plastic dog grooming brush in oil paint and went on to use a small handmade aluminium stencil. His use of blown up comic book images, household goods, Ben-day dots, speech bubbles and flat planes of colour can be seen in early works such as Washing Machine (1961), Drowning Girl (1963), As I Opened Fire (1964) and Shipboard Girl (1965).

Lichtenstein began by appropriating the banal imagery of the mass media and consumerism, thereby challenging the traditional definition between fine art and pop culture. He went on to take art history as his subject matter, appropriating and transforming famous styles and movements from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism. His dialogue with art history and the act of painting can be seen in works such as Non-Objective II (1964), Little Big Painting (1965) and Still Life with Picasso (1973). In the 1970s and 80s the artist re-envisioned traditional art historical themes in a series of Still Life paintings, sculptures and drawings. Notable series include Expressionist Woodcut Series (1980), Reflections (1988-1990) and Interiors (1991-1992).

Since the artistís first public sculpture commission Mermaid (1979) was installed at the Miami Beach Theatre for the Performing Arts, Lichtenstein executed numerous large scale sculpture installations including Brushstrokes in Flight (1983) for the Ohio International Airport, Barcelona Head (1992), commissioned for the Summer Olympics in Barcelona and Times Square Mural (1994) in New York. Singapore Brushstrokes, the artistís last major outdoor sculpture was installed at the Pontiac Marina in Singapore in 1997 and employs the artistís signature brush stroke motif.

In 1995, Lichtenstein received the National Medal of Arts, one of the highest accolades in the United States. The artist continued his prolific career as painter, printmaker and sculptor until his death of pneumonia in 1997.

Internationally exhibited and highly valued, the significance and breadth of Lichtensteinís work is currently being celebrated in the large-scale exhibition, Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective. In 2012 the exhibition will travel from the Art Institute of Chicago to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC to Tate Modern, London and the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
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