1962 by Roy Lichtenstein
Collection of Gordon Locksley & George T. Shea; courtesy archives, estate of Roy Lichtenstein
1962 was the year in which Lichtenstein had his first one-man show; the first exhibition completely dedicated to his Pop Art. Coincidental or deliberate, this fact allows this piece to truly provoke the question of a heated debate: is this art? ‘Cartoon-like’, ‘advertising’, and ‘commercial’, are just some of the attacks made against Lichtenstein’s work, its style being so far from ‘traditional’ or ‘classical’ painting. But these were the sixties, the days of rebellion, and art was no longer pigeon-holed in inverted commas; Lichtenstein was following on from Modernism, Surrealism and many more. Art is about expression, not reflection, and what better way to express a speed-driven advancing society with the clarity of the line, simplicity of block colour and the impact of large lettering. An image so clear, so definite, one that causes us to examine its very being in its over-sized and exaggerated form, manipulates our viewpoint into its way of thinking, into its literal definition; it becomes art through the merit of our consideration. Artistically, the image is also absorbing, commanding of our attention with its bright colour and simplicity – the yellow glows but is not acidic, the red is vivid but dulled so as not to overpower, and the white is purely clean; colour is densely and decidedly bold. Even the sculpting of the lettering is not to be underestimated – the swell of the R is pleasingly bulbous, the tiny central triangle of the A invites like an eye-hole, and the trim top of the T is taught for effect. Lichtenstein’s Art is one of his best works, as it relies on his technique solely; with no distraction of figures and a loaded message, it is potently powerful.