Pop art icon Ray Lichtenstein “…brings together 125 of his most definitive paintings and sculptures and will reassess his enduring legacy” in Whaam! on at Tate Modern from 21 February – 27 May 2013.

More than just cartoons

I visited around 15th March 2013 with my brother Terry.  He wasn’t as impressed as I thought he might be, considering the bright in-your-face cartoon-y nature of the work.  Anyway, it fulfilled this visit’s “culture requirement” along with a stop at the Hayward to see “Light Show” (click link to see more on that in another post). But enough about Terry; I thought it was OK. Not thrilling, not my favourite kind of art but just about OK. To start, I found the garish colours a bit overwhelming, and as I moved room to room, it all started looking the same.

One thing going for the show was that the curators chose to show Lichtenstein’s other work besides his well-known “cartoon” pieces. This was a nice surprise. My favourite works were the black and white ones, for example, the “object mirrors” and the ball of twine:

I probably like these because I’m working a lot with black and white these days – ink or charcoal. Black and white is economical and strong. I find the patterns in Lichtenstein’s work repetitive and soothing, meditative and puzzling, like the image could easily become something else if I stare long enough.

All in all, I’m glad I went to the exhibit because I discovered work by Lichtenstein that is new to me – and these I find much more interesting and compelling than his famous works.

More information

Whaam! 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997

  •  Roy Lichtenstein at Tate Modern (Lichtenstein’s page on Tate website)
  • Lichtenstein: A Retrospective (more about the exhibition from Tate)
  • Review by Laura Cumming of the Guardian
    “Lichtenstein’s paintings are just inherently likable. Even when the ostensible subject is banal…there is joy in their graphic zip and register… they have charm almost as part of their content.”
  • Review by Adrian Hamilton of the Independent – 4/5 stars
    “He was as strong in three dimensions as two and the show includes a number of examples of his sculptures in ceramic and brass which hint at what he might have done if he had experimented more in materials instead of concentrating on paint.”
  • Review by Alistair Smart of the Telegraph – 2/5 stars
    ” In a sense, he’s the perfect artist de nos jours, one who won’t detain us for long in an age of short attention spans and blockbuster exhibition crowds. For my own part, once the show had dealt with Lichtenstein’s intrepid breakthrough years, I found the monotony all too claustrophobic. By the end, I was rather relieved to make my exit.”

Exhibition details: Lichtenstein – A Retrospective runs 21 February – 27 May 2013 at Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG, UK