Spent more time this morning thinking about Roy Lichtenstein than I’ve spent in my entire previous life. Yes, I’m one of those bourgeois types who is just not that into modern and contemporary art. In my extremely limited museum time, I’d much rather look at Magritte and Sargent and Manet and Hopper and Rivera and Wood and Balthus and El Greco and Van Gogh and Japanese wood block prints and Dutch still lives and black and white photographs and just about any kind of drawings. That’s just what interests me: figure drawing and edge and a pattern of dark and light over the surface and explorations of space in a flat plane. Above all, I like looking at the work of artists who draw better than I do. Luckily for me, there are an awful lot of people who qualify!
Note that I’m not saying that modern and contemporary artists can’t draw. I’m sure they can, and if your museum wants to put together an exhibit of their drawings, I will come and look at it if I can. But the abstract stuff and the thinky stuff and the piles of things on the floor: yeah, it’s interesting, and I can get the idea behind it if you explain it to me, but I’d rather be over here looking at a Remington drawing of a horse.
But every cartoonist knows about Lichtenstein, the pop artist who used images he borrowed (stole, appropriated, elevated) from comic books in the creation of his paintings which exaggerated their “cartoony” qualities in some kind of ironic comment on mid 20th Century society. (Or so I sort of remember from a long ago art history class.) I’ve seen his paintings occasionally, and I always found them slightly creepy– wouldn’t it be better just to read the comic books instead?
Other cartoonists, much wiser and broader thinking than I am, have taken this vague impression and turned it into an informed critique, or rather, several different informed critiques. These are rounded up in today’s Chicago Tribune, in an article about a tour of the Art Institute’s current Lichtenstein retrospective by a Tribune reporter and comics artist Hillary Barta. (Mr. Barta once said something very kind about one of my minicomics at a long ago Chicago Comicon, so I may be slightly biased.)
Read the article on the Tribune website, and I can pretty much guarantee you will spend more time than usual thinking about Lichtenstein, too.