|Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein (1963)|
Featuring 125 items, mostly paintings but some sculptures, Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is a huge exhibition charting the career of one of the most instantly recognisable and imitated pop artists. We’re forever seeing copies of Lichtenstein’s comic book style so it’s good to see the real things close up. Not that Roy could complain about plagiarism as his breakthrough moment as an artist came with a 1961 painting of a Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck illustration from his young son’s book and his famous Whaam! (1963) was lifted straight from the pages of a DC comic published the previous year, which he - in my opinion - improved upon and offered in a completely different setting. Some may take umbrage to this pilfering (the original artists for a start) but I’m okay with it, in the same way I don’t mind Bob Dylan reworking Woody Guthrie or even (as much as I loathe them) Led Zeppelin plundering the work of blues artists. All of Roy’s most familiar pieces appear in Room 4 titled War and Romance: Whaam!, Drowning Girl, Torpedo Los! (all 1963), Oh, Jeff (1964) and a host of others . They’re great to see, as are his Brushstrokes series which came during the following couple of years; their thick black outlines against dots have a startling 3-D effect. After those it’s a bit here and there, rarely veering too far from his trademark style apart from the art deco influenced brass sculptures from 1966/67 which feel out of place. 1991’s huge scale Interior With Waterlilies again has a 3-D aspect not apparent in printed (or screen) versions - the bed looks like it comes out into the room inviting the viewer to sit on it - and the Chinese landscapes from the mid-90s are good but the rest isn’t so impressive. The Late Nudes in Room 11 (of 13) were a bit too young looking for my eyes. After a while, due to the sheer scale of the exhibition, it becomes a little like wading through a 6-CD box set when a Greatest Hits collection would’ve sufficed but as a career retrospective it’s hard to beat.
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is at the Tate Modern, London Southbank until 27 May 2013, admission £14.
|Panel from All American Men of War by Irv Novick and Bob Kanigher (1962)|