Up there with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein is one of the most recognisable American modern artists going – and similarly the creator of some of the most bastardised work around. Most people are more likely to have seen his work emblazoned on a gift mug, a novelty T-shirt or a placemat, rather than an art gallery wall. So, the new Lichtenstein retrospective at the Tate Modern, the first of its kind for 20s years, comes as a pleasant surprise – and a pretty good opportunity for his fans.
Every good pop artist had a fascination with consumer culture and the visual language of the mass media; Lichtenstein was no different. Famed for his use of the old-fashioned comic strip to convey puns and innuendos, his work is both accessible and instantly recognisable. Most of his work carried his trademark humour, mimicking, with just a hint of irony, the two dimensional characters of popular culture.
This opportunity to get up-close and personal with the work will also reveal his attention to detail, as we coloured his images with the same Ben-Day spots used in the printing process. This pain-staking process became a signature style for Lichtenstein for most of his career, even taking the dots into his large sculptures. Luckily, the entire artist’s oeuvre are explored in the show, which includes 125 works of his paintings and sculptures, giving a full dissection of the range of surfaces and materials he used to achieve his visions.
His prolific career, which ran into the 1990s, is often overlooked or reduced to a graphic composition, by the means of mass production he himself chose to highlight. Hopefully, this exhibition should serve to readdress this balance. A must-see. (Words: Laura Thornley)
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is on until May 27th. For more info visit: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/lichtenstein