Monday, 4 March 2013

The Tate Modern | LICHTENSTEIN - A Retrospective


Today I took a visit to the incredible Tate Modern to have a look at an exhibition that it feels like I have been waiting an eternity for. I don't think I can explain just how much I have been looking forward to visiting this exhibition, and seeing such vast array of works from one of my favorite artists. I have only ever seen the Whaam! painting which you can see below, on the walls of the Tate a good while ago and more recently a collection of 3 paintings by Lichtenstein in Berlin. 
The exhibition was simply incredible. I spent over two hours walking through the 13 rooms in awe and splendor. I for one understand, like many, the difference between seeing a work of art in a book or on a screen and in the flesh, but the scale and the power of the works were more than what I could ever had imagined. The colours and the lines alongside the scale of some of the canvases are engulfing, and to those who have dismayed Lichtensteins 'plagiarised' paintings as art, they are incredibly emotional, inspiring and have an strong visual impact. 
I bought a book after the exhibition which shows an article from January 31, 1964 in Life Magazine which describes Lichtenstein as "one of the worst artists in America." I understand that perceptions of art were different at the time, but they must have looked at his paintings with their eyes closed.

This is the introduction to the exhibition from the Tate website;
"Tate Modern is proud to present a retrospective of one of the great American artists of the twentieth century.
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is the first full-scale retrospective of this important artist in over twenty years. Co-organised by The Art Institute of Chicago and Tate Modern, this momentous show brings together 125 of his most definitive paintings and sculptures and reassesses his enduring legacy.
Lichtenstein is renowned for his works based on comic strips and advertising imagery, coloured with his signature hand-painted Benday dots. The exhibition showcases such key paintings as Look Mickey 1961 lent from the National Gallery Art, Washington and his monumental Artist’s Studio series of 1973–4. Other noteworthy highlights include Whaam! 1963 – a signature work in Tate’s collection – and Drowning Girl 1963 on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The artist’s rich and expansive practice is represented by a wide range of materials, including paintings on Rowlux and steel, as well sculptures in ceramic and brass and a selection of previously unseen drawings, collages and works on paper.
Room after room pays tribute to his extraordinary oeuvre, celebrating the visual power and intellectual rigour of Roy Lichtenstein’s work."
…at its best Lichtenstein’s work is sensational – his style may be controlled but the effect is vivid and seductive. ****
Ben Luke, The Evening Standard
Lichtenstein’s cool, dry wit retains its overtly uncomplicated eye-catching strength. But now the curators set out determinedly to show us something more.
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times
Profound or simply effective, Lichtenstein knew how to make a canvas leap out at you. ****
Adrian Hamilton, The Independent
The exhibition is on until the 27th of May 2013, so you have plenty of time to head to the Tate and check it out. Also, pretty annoying for my blog.... but no pictures! 

Here is a an interesting video which will give you a little insight into both the exhibition,  and Lichtenstein himself.

I love looking at artists sketches and studies and seeing how they progress into a finished piece.
Drawing for 'Whaam!' 1963 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein 
Whaam! 1963 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
 "'Whaam!' is based on an image from 'All American Men of War' published by DC comics in 1962. Throughout the 1960s, Lichtenstein frequently drew on commercial art sources such as comic images or advertisements, attracted by the way highly emotional subject matter could be depicted using detached techniques. Transferring this to a painting context, Lichtenstein could present powerfully charged scenes in an impersonal manner, leaving the viewer to decipher meanings for themselves. Although he was careful to retain the character of his source, Lichtenstein also explored the formal qualities of commercial imagery and techniques. In these works as in 'Whaam!', he adapted and developed the original composition to produce an intensely stylised painting." 
Above text taken from the Tate website,

I had also seen this magnificent scarf on in the Tate shop on their website and when I saw it in the shop I had to have it! Its based on Lichtensteins 1964 painting 'Oh, Jeff... I love you, too... But...'  

I also bought a book as I was eager to have a good read and find out more about Lichtenstein and his art. I decided not to buy the exhibition catalog as I prefer something with a lot of text and some pictures of the artist at work and his studio, so that you don't just get an understanding of the art but also of the artist himself which I think is just as important.

So, the book I went for was the catalog for an earlier exhibition in Milan in 2010. I haven't started to read it yet, but  I am looking forward to it!

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