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No. 12, December 2000
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Roy Lichtenstein
Biography and the exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
until January 21, 2000: Roy Lichtenstein. Spiegelbilder 1963 - 1997. Hardcover, HatjeCantz, 2000, 118 p. Get the German catalogue from Amazon.de.
 
After Andy Warhol: A Factory, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany dedicates another exhibition to an icon of American Pop Art, Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97). Despite the trivial esthetics of comic strips and advertising and his open and at the same time subtle criticism of America's mass culture and its naive belief in consumption which are at the center of his art, he was also obsessed with Classical Modern Art (Klassische Moderne) from Picasso and Matisse to Léger, Mondrian, Dalí and Magritte.
 
Lichtenstein, the son of a wealthy middle-class family, was born in Manhattan. In 1960, he began to teach at the Douglass College in New Jersey where he slowly developed his distinctive style. In a playful way, he integrated comic strip elements into his works. The simple lines of comics were typical for the rising post-war middle-class.
 
The show with 53 works concentrates on the Mirror Paintings and Reflections. For several decades, Lichtenstein reflected on these themes. Girl in the Mirror (1964), like Girl at Window  (a popular topos of the 17th century) which is also presented but was painted one year earlier, is an example of his works in which he showed the ideal type of woman as Hollywood propagated it in the 1960s, happy and smiling creatures in a male dominated world. The mirror underlines the importance and appearance of the glamour girl. The enamel allowed him to achieve a mechanical perfection and to underline the two-dimensional character of the work.
 
At the exhibition, the group of Mirrors in the stricter sense is introduced by Magnifying Glass, a work from 1963. In this series, the mirrors are more abstract and composed by a series of image-codes. The observer just gets enough information to recognize the mirror as an object. Lichtenstein plays with perception and refers to traditional forms of Occidental painting which used motifs reflected by mirrors in order to achieve a spatial depth and to break out of the space of the picture.
 
He started the Mirror Paintings series in 1969. It is about the essence of reality and illusion. Inspired by brochures and ads by several glass and mirror manufacturers in his neighborhood, Lichtenstein began to study the representation of mirrors which, on the cheap brochures, had been reduced to mere mirror symbols, to almost abstract paintings.
 
In earlier paintings, drawings and enameled works, Lichtenstein had experimented with reflections. In 1969, he began to explore them in detail. In analogy to his first Pop Art pictures which had been reproductions of comic strip images, his Mirror Paintings were based on catalogues, ads and pictures from the yellow pages. Lichtenstein was not interested in the sharp reflection of reality in a mirror, but with the reflection which seems to lift of the materiality of the reflected objects.
 
His still life works such as the Still Life with Glass and Peeled Lemon from 1972 build another segment of the exhibition. He combined the compositions of the Dutch masters of the 17th century with the precision of the American trompe-l'oeil masters such as William M. Harnett. Surrealism is another part of Lichtenstein's cosmos. In Self-Portrait (1978), he imitates Magritte's Le fils de l'homme of 1964.
 
Since 1982, Lichtenstein began to put together motifs from two different pictures. Since about 1985, he worked on his Reflections which are put in stripes over pre-existing motifs. Below, you can see Reflections on Interior with Gril Drawing from 1990, which clearly plays with Picasso's iconography and cubism. In fact, the work below is based on a painting by Picasso on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Lichtenstein kept the basic arrangement of figure and objects, but added the elements of reflections as well as the frame.
 
The Reflections are complemented by Interiors. In the 1960s, Lichtenstein began to reflect on domestic interiors and, towards the end of his life, he returned to the subject. Again inspired by the ads in the yellow pages, the artist once more deals with the mirror motif. Lichtenstein uses it as a mean to enlarge the space, but does not put in doubt the two-dimensional quality of the representation. He also plays with the ambivalence of mirrors and painting.
 
The exhibition of the 53 works - paintings, drawings, collages, enamels and sculptures - on display at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg have been assembled in collaboration with the Chiostro del Bramante in Rome. The concept is by Diane Waldman, the former vice-director and chief curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York who has published several books on Roy Lichtenstein.

Exhibition catalogue: Roy Lichtenstein. Spiegelbilder 1963 - 1997. Hardcover, Hatje Cantz, 2000, 118 p. Get the catalogue from Amazon.de (in German).
 
Check also the The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné 1948-97. Hardcover, Hudson Hills Press, October 2000.
 

Robert Fitzpatrick, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Leo Castelli: Roy Lichtenstein. Hardcover, Hudson Hills Press, April 2001, 104 p. Get it from Amazon.com or from Amazon.de.
 


Exhibition catalogue: Roy Lichtenstein. Spiegelbilder 1963 - 1997. Hardcover, Hatje Cantz, 2000, 118 p. Get the catalogue from Amazon.de (in German).
 

 

 

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 12, December 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.