Roy Lichtenstein. (Reviews: Los Angeles)

By Miles, Christopher | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview
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Roy Lichtenstein. (Reviews: Los Angeles)


Miles, Christopher, Artforum International


GAGOSIAN GALLERY

Roy Lichtenstein was a bit inconsistent when he moved beyond the obvious quotation strategy that inspired him during the '60s. Some of the artist's attempts to overlay his dots, stripes, flat colors, and hard outlines onto other subjects gained real punch from the stylistic grafting, as in his brushstroke and mirror paintings and a number of his interior scenes. Other bids were less successful, such as his efforts with slews of textbook pieces and references to modernist painting from Cezanne to Dali. The better of his late works came when the artist seemed less concerned with using his style as a kind of roving signature and instead looked to see how he could use his motifs as the foundation for smart paintings built from scratch. Excellent examples appear in Lichtenstein's mostly late-'80s series of "Perfect" and "Imperfect" paintings and related studies, which received their first comprehensive treatment in this exhibition.

The "Perfect" paintings are compositions generated by multiple straight lines meeting at angles to suggest a single continuous path, as when one joins five lines with five angles to form a pentagram. Lichtenstein's works, however, are highly asymmetrical, using lines that cross to create many triangles and other shapes. As the lines usually meet in angles at the edge of the canvas, they generate a tension between the sides of the rectilinear format, as if literally pulling or lacing the composition together while simultaneously signaling an outward thrust. The lines maintain their hard edge and boldness throughout, but occasionally shift in color and thickness, while the shapes they define are filled with solid flat and metallic color or swatches of stripes and dot patterns. Recognizing that stretching or bowing any line or adjusting any one angle altered the entire composition, because all the lines were connected, Lichtenstein later began making the "Imperfect" paintings.

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