Roy Lichtenstein’s distinctive paintings of the early 1960s are synonymous with the Pop art movement. These bold, oversized images inspired by newspaper advertisements and comic book scenes have been taken as reflecting the artist’s fascination with the links between art and popular culture. In this highly readable and original book, Michael Lobel challenges this circumscribed view of Lichtenstein’s work, offering a set of compelling new interpretations that reveal the artist’s confrontation with a far wider range of issues. Lichtenstein’s art is fundamentally engaged with a set of concerns central to art making in the postwar period: the relation between vision and technology, the possibility of articulating artistic identity, and the effect of mechanical reproduction on the work of art. Lichtenstein’s project, Lobel argues, is structured by the tension between painting understood as a fully expressive, humanistic gesture and, conversely, as the product of a purely mechanical act.
This handsomely illustrated book makes available for the first time an array of archival materials about Lichtenstein and his work, including photographs of the artist and many newly discovered sources for his imagery in the comics and advertisements of the early 1960s. It also provides new information on the context of the artist’s Pop paintings in relation to contemporary developments in advertising culture, mechanical reproduction, and visual technologies. Examining the artist’s work from fresh perspectives, the author not only offers a comprehensive analysis of Lichtenstein’s early Pop paintings but also provides new insight into the issues that shaped the Pop art movement, artistic practices in the 1960s, and the historical relation between modern art and popular culture.
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