Roy Fox Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Roy Fox Lichtenstein was born in New York. His father, Milton Lichtenstein was a real-estate broker, and his mother was a gifted piano player. Roy Fox Lichtenstein had an uneventful childhood. Roy Fox Lichtenstein started to draw and paint as a hobby in his high school years. In those early days, he was fascinated by jazz players, and he tried to imitate Picasso’s style of Blue and Rose Period paintings. In 1939, he entered the summer art classes of the Art Students’ League under Reginald Marsh. He then enrolled in the School of Fine Arts at Ohio State University, but was drafted in 1943 into the army and served in Britain and continental Europe. After the war he returned to Ohio State University and finished his Bachelor of Fine Art in 1946. He then accepted an instructor position at the graduate program, and in 1949 gained his Master of Fine Art and exhibited his first solo-exhibition at the Ten Thirty Gallery in Cleveland.
In 1951 Lichtenstein exhibited his found-objects show in New York, and during the 1957-60 period he experimented with a number of styles, including Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism and Dadaism. His sophisticated compositions of surfaces were enriched by bold colors, letters and other symbols, such as maps and other esoterica l signs. In 1960 he was appointed Assistant Professor at Douglas College at Rutgers University of New Jersey. His proximity to the New York’s art scene provided him with the opportunity to be in contact with a number of influential artists and critics. Roy Fox Lichtenstein became interested in the Pop Art movement, and in 1961 he produced a number of paintings that were based on comic-strip frames. By using Ben-Day dots, lettering and speech balloons, he added a new dimension to his paintings. Leo Castelli Gallery offered him a show which would feature his comic-based works in 1962. He participated at the Venice Biennale In 1966, and Guggenheim Museum exhibited a retrospective of his works in 1969.
Lichtenstein pulled the comics into a new paradigm, changing them from a humdrum existence with limited audience into a thought provoking art form where panels juxtaposed print, advertising and more to create a conceptual work for a more sophisticated audiences. His work showed that comics have stylistic characteristics that inescapably follow an aesthetic code. Roy Fox Lichtenstein worked on a number of subtle parodying of various styles including Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism.
All my art is in some way about other art, even if the other art is cartoons” -Roy Lichtenstein ( J. Hendrickson, Roy Lichtenstein, Cologne 2000, frontispiece
Lichtenstein’s work is characterized by an inexhaustible ebullience and energy, manifested in his resolute appreciation of pop-culture. His images are dominated by the vivid primary colors, masterfully outlined with black lines. His nonchalant blunt conceits with perplexing, and often playful renditions of tawdry images are appended by thought balloons – which renders an enigmatic and visual sentiment. Similar qualities can be found in his three-dimensional graphic imitations of German Expressionist woodcuts in the early 1980s, and in his later works of painted or sculpted brushstrokes – which meticulously created an impression of modernist impulsiveness.
Roy Fox Lichtenstein
Lichtenstein was wholesome, freethinking and almost always a down-to-earth explorer. Perhaps he invariably conceived of the concepts of ‘here’ and ‘now’ as an amazing occasion and he was quite confident of how to deal with the uncertainties of this moment. More than anything else he was not a charlatan who would hide his lack of talent behind a discourse in philosophical nonsense — a practice all too common these days. As Roberta Smith of New York Times has written:
The perfection of his paintings was achieved through extensive and beautiful preparatory studies, as indicated by his drawing retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987. It is not too soon to be reminded of this again, in a delicious survey of nearly 60 works. (NY Times January 12, 2007)
His “perfect” paintings were compositions made by a number of triangles that were constrained by the boundaries of a rectangular canvas. Lichtenstein explored the color tensions of these geometric surfaces with some humor. His ”Imperfect” paintings, which according to him were supposed to be “humorous” were in some sense an evolution of his perfect paintings that some sides of those triangles extruded beyond the square frames of the canvases. According to the artist ”Art becomes this game of whether I hit the edges.” These awe-inspiring and artistic work were scoffing at the philosophical tenet of the early modernists who criticized the pictorial illusionism of the three-dimensional spatiality in painting . His experimentation with shaped canvas and geometric imagery represented the formidable level of his inventiveness and sustained creative curiosity. Lichtenstein’s rebellious challenging of the philosophical underpinnings of modern styles led to a straight forward resolution of aesthetic dilemma of the modern art.