WHAAM! BRAT! JEFF! Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

Hopeless 1963

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Hopeless 1963, Oil and Magna on canvas
Kunstmuseum Basel, Depositum der Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, Aachen  © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

I slept under a Lichtenstein* poster for the better part of ten years. Something about a hopeless drowning woman determined not to call Jeff for help really spoke to my teenage sense of humour (and drama). So can imagine my excitement when I heard of the Lichtenstein Retrospective at the Tate Modern. Get in.

Being from the arse end of the world, it is amazing to see a big collection of one artists work. In New Zealand we would be lucky to see one Lichtenstein, two tops. It means that you get a rather one dimensional view of an artist. I always thought that Lichtenstein just did big comic book frames of pre-feminism blondes. Boy was I wrong, and at the same time oh so right.

But what blew my mind were the outliers. The room full of a pop art take on traditional Chinese landscapes, all in dreamy shades of light blue. Or the Art Deco sculptures which Lichtenstein created and then used as inspiration for his design work. Not to mention the room full of larger than life naked cartoon ladies, that in itself is enough to capture the non-arty types.

Speaking of those non-arty heathens, it was an absolute joy to see the children’s excitement at this exhibition. Lichtenstein is an artist that kids just ‘get’. While the adults were dotted round articulating, the under fives were embodying the emotion/story – running round Whaam! Baff! and Takka Takka! ing.

For me the work that I loved the most (sorry no picture for this one) was Large Jewels (1963), which was a black and white painting of an intricate diamond ring. It might just be because I have a history of jewellery making and am currently designing my own, but Lichtensteins style turned a simple design explanation into a Rorschach inkblot test which caused much standing and looking.

This is art that I think anyone would like, or at the very least you will be able to find a room that you like. Get to the Tate Modern and soak up some of the Lichtenstein sunshine (particularly since the spring sunshine is still non-existent!).

*For those new to the scene, Lichtenstein is a pop artist from the States, famous for his bright cartoon images

3 Comments

  1. April 2, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    I went to this exhibition last week and I absolutely loved it. I hadn’t been convinced about him before (I’d only seen a few pieces in the flesh), but seeing such a quantity in one place was great. Much more variety than I’d expected. Great review 🙂

    • April 2, 2013 / 2:58 pm

      Thanks! It’s the scale of these exhibitions that always get me – such a different vibe.