Like most Pop artists, you either love or hate Roy Lichtenstein. Notorious for appropriating both low culture iconography (like the POWs and BLAM!s of comic books) and the work of his predecessors, Lichtenstein nonetheless gained a loyal following and produced a massive body of work. At the time of his death in 1997, it’s fair to say Lichtenstein had made a fortune. His works, instantly recognizable thanks to his signature, artificial and precise “pointillism”, have since made a fortune more.
Despite Lichtenstein’s celebrity, no real retrospective of his work appeared following his death. The last major survey of his work occurred at the Guggenheim Museum in 1993. Now, a decade later, the National Gallery of Art has seized the opportunity with Roy Lichtenstein: A Retorspective. The exhibit includes more than 100 of his paintings and additional ephemera including drawings, some of his sculptural work, and archival footage (including interviews). The combination of media offers a comprehensive guide to Lichentein’s interests and motivations.
Perhaps best known for his shameless mimicry of famous art and artists (his work often references his predecessors including Picasso and Matisse), Lichtenstein believed that his process related less to imitation than to deconstruction. In an interview with NPR, his wife, Dorothy Lichtenstein, described the experience of attending museums and galleries with her husband: “It was actually great going to a museum with Roy. Everything was grist for his mind. He was always looking at paintings and how he might be able to transform them.”
Pop Art has become ingrained in American cultural references, and Lichtenstein doubtless contributed to the movement’s rise. This exhibit does much to recognize his influence on the contemporary art scene, in America, and also internationally–the exhibit travels to the Tate Modern in 2013.