Pop Art looks out into the World. – Roy Lichtenstein
Pop culture as a phenomenon is a product of the twentieth century west. It is a conglomeration of ideas, expressions and opinions that garnered enough public interest to be considered mainstream. Broadcast and publicity makes the phenomenon an integral part of common life. Muted down so could be heard, compromised so as to fit in, yet intricate, and exciting. In its finery to make a show out of life and how.
Pop art is here to stay, here to celebrate existence and meander away from the orthodox and assimilate the rebels into its ever swelling streams. Conceived by the west in the 1950’s, constructed from the essence of irony in the mundane necessities of life. Pop art presents itself to the audience as a celebration of the humdrum. Everyday objects like a tea cup or a refrigerator, peripheral sections of the newspaper like comic strips and advertisements create the reference image on which the artwork is elaborately based. The reproduction of the otherwise obscure imagery into something magnificent through the application of expert techniques, laced with generous overtones of irony. This is what makes Pop Art, the on your face, million dollar extravaganza that it is.
While other art movements from the 20th century like Dadaism, Expressionism and Surrealism, evolving from the aesthetics of cubism, impressionism and likes, now depended heavily on the contents of the artist’s soul, deriving from the elements of the spontaneous sub-conscious, defeated conscious and meticulously dysphoric mind. Pop art, also a brainchild of the 20th century, in its modest ways begged to differ. Drawing life source from the forgettable, yet easily recognizable, everyday images in circulation. Comic strips and images from advertisement columns are of paramount importance in this regard.
In their selection of a materialistic medium as inspiration, pop art may have pursued the footprints of dadaism,a movement which preceded pop movement by a few years. Yet in its influence to the mass media, pop art surely went the longer distance.
Pop art like Abstract Expressionism was conceived on the bedrock of the post world war II civilization. Abstract Expressionism on its part drew from the psychological emptiness that was still prevalent among the population, while Pop art drank from the spring of industrial and commercial boom.
Thus pop art induces a rather interactive ambiance among a more varied audience compared to the other mentioned art movements which may attract the attention of few of the industry fanatics. Among other critical commentary on Pop art, it is often stated that the intentions of the artist is to strategically promote the cause of capitalism.
The ideals of Pop art may have surged across the common consciousness of different cultures at different points of time. Yet today what we speak of as Pop art is with respect to the American context.
Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann, Claes Oldenburg among others are the American pop art masters.
Roy Lichtenstein and Pop Art:
“ Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn’t look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself. ” as quotes Lichtenstein.
Roy Lichtenstein was a creator of million dollar enterprises. His 1963 artwork, ‘Torpedo Los’, in the year 1989 fetched a modest $5.5 millions at an auction in Christie’s. A personal record for the artist in the time. The piece which now could be considered a pop classic was sourced from an image from DC comics, with necessary meaningful alteration made by the artist. From 2010 on wards, paintings of Lichtenstein have constantly crossed the $40 million mark, with pieces like – ‘Ohhh Alright’, ‘I Can See the Whole Room…and There’s Nobody in it!‘, ‘Sleeping Girl’ and ‘Women with Flowered Hat’ . In 2015 with the sale of, ‘Nurse’ to an anonymous buyer at an auction at Christie’s, for an astonishing $95.4 millions, the artist broke his previous record set by, Women with ‘Flowered Hat’ which sold in 2013 for $56.1 millions. All painstaking creations of pop art.
From among the author’s body of work, special mention must be made of: ‘ Whaam’ – 1963 Tate Modern Art, London; ‘ Downing Girl ’ – 1963, Museum of Modern Art, New York; ‘Look Mickey ‘ – 1961, National Gallery of Arts, Washington DC. Pieces which paved the way for the artist’s fame and are considered absolute corner-stones in the pop art repository.
Among other prominent artworks by Lichtenstein is the ‘Brushstroke Series’. A series of paintings embarked upon and accomplished by the artist in 65/66, which depicted in different ways the artistic rendition of a brushstroke. Imagery on the lines of Abstract Expressionism. A homage to the brushstroke, with its bold outlines, Ben day dot mastering, meticulous presentation and comic book inspiration, the smoke is all about Pop Art.
A true Pop artist at soul, who understood his creations, Roy Lichtenstein also showed artistic bias towards the mirror, late in 60’s. As counter culture was approaching its peak, while art critics still received their paychecks, it was the artist’s attempt at surrealism.
Born in a well to do Jewish family, Lichtenstein was first introduced to art and graphics in school. Through out his life he remained a student of the subject, with reproductions been the driving element of his body of work. His rendition of Van Gogh’s, ‘Bedroom at Aries’, in the early 90’s, more than a hundred years after the original was painted, through its bold outlines, bright colors and an overall remastering appeal, depicts organization, efficiency and evolution of the arts.