Roy Lichtenstein’s work personifies the ideologies of the American Pop Art Movement. Many believe that the New Art Movement was in a way a rebellion to the convention of art, but rather it was an understanding and reaction to the social issues and paradigm of the time. The simplification of a form and the primordial colour palette ensures that the intended message was heard. Many American Pop Artists played much emphasis on the subject, tone and texture of their pieces. Ensuring that every subject had an intended purpose and method of rendition commented on the social temperature of the period. American Pop Artists not only responded to the and the advent manufacturing and beginning of Kitch Art in the gallery, but rather, illustrated the intense detail and precision associated with the simplification of a rendition. From collage, to planar drawings, Pop Artists strived for effortless renditions that in fact was immensely time consuming and strenuous. The Cubist Era taught us that the simplification of a form still highly represented a form, so to does Pop Art. Every shadow, line and curve punctuates a form, providing the most elementary shape with purpose and definition.
Lichtenstein’s, “Lady with Hair Ribbon” c. 1965 is one of the many females portrayed in his work. They are all depicted as a quintessential 1960’s beauty, with blonde wavy hair, and blushing lips. Despite their iconographic beauty, they are never happy, content or pleased; rather they are in a perpetual state of worry and instability. Her parsed lips and her unwavering gaze engrosses the viewer and makes them feel as though something is not right. The social temperature at the time of this painting was very much unsettled as well. Like many of the American Pop Artists of this time, the disillusionment of warfare and the mark it made on American Life was the main source of inspiration. America was moving from a time of safety and stability to a time of great social unrest and speculation. In order to really comprehend the intent of the American Pop Artists, social commentary is vital. With the Black Rights Movement and the invasion of Vietnam, American society was fraught with uncertainty and fear. America was also following the trend of manufacturing and the need for quick, easy living. This was a very interesting time in American History for Artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns.
Lichtenstein’s style has become one of the most recognisable styles in Art History. Benday Dots, thick gestural black lines and a primary colour palette is the cornerstones of his style. The result is a flat, yet very representative image, with little obstruction as the viewer’s eyes gaze over the painting. This method may seem simple in execution, but rather it is painstakingly labour intensive. His paintings are larger than life, and standing in front of his works is engulfing. The dots begin to blur as your eyes roll over the image, and as you gradually recede from the work, the image comes to the fore front. The tight constraints of the picture plane, coupled with the cropping of her body, intensifies the feeling of worry and uncertainty matched in her expression. In essence, she is worried about something and the viewer in turn is worried about her. Many Libelists at the time, we very much consumed by this feeling of intended doom. That the Vietnam War, was not good for America and that the government was not acting in the best interest of the American People.
Artist Like Lichtenstein were very passionate about this. His work is fraught with satirical imagery with regard to impending doom, war and neglect. His signature style hid the weightiness of his message and played to a light, comic book anecdote. Like many of the Pop Art Pieces of this time, the heaviness of their message was shielded by colour and simplistic renditions. In a way, Pop Art has become an emotional time capsule of American Society in the 1950-60’s. Dissection of these brightly coloured and playfully arranged pieces delve into an emotional tidal wave of uncertainty, fear and worry that was very reminiscent of America at this time.
Be sure to check out many more of Lichtenstein’s pieces on this tribute websites.