Lichtenstein at Tate Modern

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Lichtenstein at Tate Modern

Postby jasperjoffe » Mon May 06, 2013 3:50 pm

Only yesterday feel like I saw this show at the Hayward. The muckier earlier ones have a warmer life to them. Later on over and over and over he uses the dots to career around art history. Fair enough, and often elegant, witty. and pretty. Sort of make you depressed thinking he just kept painting dots. Is that all.
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Re: Lichtenstein at Tate Modern

Postby CAP » Mon May 06, 2013 4:27 pm

Amazingly I was just wishing I'd reviewed this show!

Re-reading the stupid comments on The Guardian review thread was almost enough to set me correcting a few misconceptions here.
But didn’t the show just end?

Oh well.

The abiding impression is one of pretty much anal obsession and fanatical denial of touch. He was a weird guy – read the Wiki page on his private life – updated recently. Sure he could reject the expressive of Ab-Ex and embrace the machine aesthetic (he quickly hired assistants for all the Ben-Day dot stencilling) and make himself look like a pretty good designer – but in the end does being under-expressive actually trump being over-expressive? It was such a stunning style, but inevitably it became a prison. That's the price you pay for that sort of rigour. Cool was such a big thing in the 60s, it seems strange the way it’s become so academic now. I suppose he could have gone all Joseph Albers on us, so at least he got back to figuration with a suitable amount of detachment via comics.

But people still think he ‘just copied’ from comics and that there are copyright issues (the usual Guardian suspects). There was an article way back when curators actually got some leading contemporary cartoonists to see if they could do the same thing with their artwork – ‘just enlarge’ a frame as a painting. And they pretty quickly found out that a lot more was involved (wish I could find the article, but it’s been a long time). Lichtenstein simplifies and exaggerates a lot of things, like the brush-formed outlines, the lettering and colouring. Even where cynics think they can trace the exact frame of a comic strip he used – try enlarging it! – For one thing the magnification quickly becomes fuzzy through ink resolution and paper quality – and then trying to ‘sharpen’ these lines only begs questions of thickness (desired or actual – at what scale???) The same thing with colour – colour intensity is entirely different for scale (as colour-field bores never tire of demonstrating). Even if he wanted to, Lichtenstein couldn’t have ‘just copied’ his sources. A lot of the times he actually combines parts of different frames as well. He has an idealised view of a comic strip frame. Someone on the Guardian thread admits he was actually designing paintings but the majority are off on some completely wayward rant.

He definitely started something, along with Warhol ,and I have no trouble paying tribute. But when I look back at the psychological side of them, they do belong to another, kind of closed world. The war generation and everything. Mad Men. It’s hard to realise he was of the same generation as Leon Golub for instance. Talk about opposites. :?

BTW - Lichtenstein was about 38 when he made his breakthrough Pop paintings. :P
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