Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

The Art Institute of Chicago may have several of Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s pieces in its permanent collection, but during this monumental survey the number of his artworks lining the museum’s walls will increase exponentially. Over 160 drawings, paintings, and sculptures are included in the exhibition, which explores the evolution of his practice from abstractionist to refined avant-garde painter of “Bratatats,” “Varooms,” “Whaams,” and many wild-haired women with their dryly witty thought bubbles. Visitors will have a chance to dissect his characteristic Ben-Day dotted style, as the exhibition attempts to expose Lichtenstein as a true formalist master.

The New York-born and educated artist only developed the snarky, print advertising- and comics-inspired body of work for which he is best known in the early 1960s, with the iconic turning point piece “Look Mickey” (1961). He was preoccupied with the tenets of Cubism and Abstract Expressionism in the early years of his career, but while teaching at Douglass Collegein the 1950s he embraced cartoons as a technical and conceptual challenge, responding to the confines of new trends that sought to break traditional composition. Following the influence of contemporaries like Allan KaprowJim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg, he moved away from figurative styles and into representational work about everyday life. Advertising and cartoons served as a springboard for subject matter, but only propelled him to look backwards, to predecessors like Claude Monet’s “Haystacks,” Henri Matisse’s “The Dance,” and scenes from Chinese landscapes – whose imagery he appropriated using his mechanized and highly organized method of painting.

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