Roy Lichtenstein (1927- 1997) is inarguably one of the most influential artists of the Pop Art movement. His signature comic-strip style, featuring Ben-Day dots, caption bubbles, and cartoonish characters painted in bold colors, remains as relevant in today’s art scene as it did some 50 years ago.
Lichtenstein was born in 1923 in New York City. His father was a real estate broker, and his mother was a homemaker. Lichtenstein’s interest in art began at an early age; he spent his time drawing, taking art classes, and learning to play various musical instruments. In 1943, Lichtenstein was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, and even then his passion for art was articulated through his tasks: drawing maps for his division.
Upon returning from his stint in the Air Force, Lichtenstein continued to focus on art, completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and participating in various exhibitions in both Ohio, where he studied and taught art classes, and in his hometown of New York. After exhibiting in several group and solo exhibitions, Lichtenstein rose to worldwide prominence in the early 1960s with works such as ‘Masterpiece,’ ‘Whaam!,’ and ‘Drowning Girl.’ Lichtenstein died in 1997 in New York at the age of 74.
Gagosian Gallery New York, in collaboration with the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, has recreated the historic ‘Greene Street Mural,’ a 96-foot high painting that Lichtenstein originally created for the Leo Castelli Gallery at 142 Greene Street in 1983. The original mural was exhibited for six weeks and subsequently destroyed in congruence with Lichtenstein’s objective. Thirty-two years later, with supervision from his former studio assistant, the iconic mural has been replicated and, in keeping with tradition, will be destroyed at the close of the exhibition on October 17th.
Incorporated into the Roy Lichtenstein: Greene Street Mural exhibition are exclusive and rare photos of Lichtenstein at work on the original project in 1983, composition notebooks of his sourced material, and several of his earlier paintings and sculptures. Through this, he offers glimpses into the oddities that inspired his paintings — objects as common as extension cords, lamps, chairs, manila folders, toilet paper, and even a slice of Swiss cheese serve as focal points in Lichtenstein’s artworks. His ‘Electric Cord’ (1961), depicting the titular object, and ‘Portrait’ (1977), portraying a body emblazoned in a suit with a slice of Swiss cheese for a head, are only two of his smaller works that are reflected in the larger mural. Lichtenstein did not confine his artwork to canvas, creating several sculptures that are also present in the mural — ‘Brushstrokes,’ ‘The Great Pyramids,’ and ‘Lamp’ are a few that make an appearance.
This mélange of elements, coupled with his artistic composition notebook patterns, large bold brushstrokes, bright colors, crisp lines, sharp angles, and signature dots create a mystifying mix-up that somehow makes sense. Various Lichtenstein sketches, blueprints, and small-scale paintings of the ‘Greene Street Mural’ illustrate that these objects and ideas had been prevalent in his mind years before being rendered into the larger-than-life mural, which reminds us of his ability to find inspiration from almost anything around him. Through the accompanying illustrations and sculptures, the progressive path that led to the evolution of the ‘Greene Street Mural’ can be comprehended and appreciated, especially after taking into account the years of formulation that Lichtenstein invested into this project.
September 10, 2015 – October 17, 2015
Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 741 1111
By Ameena Walker
New York City native Ameena is always on the prowl for her next excursion. A food fanatic, Ameena thoroughly enjoys trying new cuisine, whether experimenting in her kitchen or scouring the streets of New York. When not enticing her inner foodie, Ameena enjoys being outdoors, when weather permits, painting, reading, writing, exercising, and getting up-to-date on all the latest fashion and natural hair hype.