I dig Roy Lichtenstein

While in Chicago for Techweek, I made time for three short excursions:

  1. Ate some deep dish pizza while subjecting hapless bar patrons to the next Backabit game.
  2. Finally saw Prometheus in 3-D with Nathan Verrill.
  3. Went to the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Seeing so much of Lichtenstein’s work in person was a thrill. My love of comics and pop culture predisposes me to any twentieth-century art with a healthy sense of satire, and nowhere do I experience that more purely than in Lichtenstein’s painting and sculpture. It’s also been fascinating to see his influence come full circle, evident (intentionally or not) in the work of cartoonists like Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke and Los Bros Hernandez.

As I explored the exhibit’s 160+ works, I was struck not only by their cleverness, expressiveness and visual impact, but also how they amplified the strengths and limitations of imagery our society takes for granted. From the April 25, 1966 issue of Newsweek:

“The experience of commercial art has given birth to a kind of symbolism,” says Lichtenstein, “and we are unifying the symbols. The products and advertising in popular culture show the impingement of this expedience. Why do you think a hill or a tree is more beautiful than a gas pump? It’s because you’re conditioned to think that way. I am calling attention to the abstract quality of banal images.”

If you’re in Chicago, I highly recommend you check it out. There’s also a beautiful exhibition catalog I couldn’t resist taking home with me. If you’re as weak-willed as I am about purchasing expensive hardcovers, I urge you to avoid flipping through it.

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