Classic Artist of the Week #15 - Roy Lichtenstein

 I always had problems with understanding the paintings of Roy Lichtenstein. Comic book strips made by a guy named like a European country - big deal. But now, after examining them once again I think I got it and you might tell me if I'm right or wrong.

Lichtenstein was born in 1923 in New York. He went to study art in Ohio, but was interrupted by the war - after which he could devote to his studies with the money distributed to the veterans. He spent some time teaching and began experimenting in the early sixties. From there on, his style began to mature and the most famous works were created - and gathered mixed reactions. They were bought even before they were exhibited and called vulgar and empty by critics at the same time. "The Worst Artist in the U.S.", as Time has named Lichtenstein, however remained positive. The artist took his work with a grain of salt and carried on with what he found to be of his liking. Good move.

The paintings are not the greatest works of art in a traditional understanding of a phrase. Nothing like El Greco's expressive landscapes or Michelangelo's pietas. Rather, they ask us about the nature of art and the role of commercialism and mass media in our lives. How do they make us react to life and what images do they create? By taking a comic strip or a drawing onto canvas and into a gallery, Lichtenstein forces us to wonder - are these people real? Their emotions? The situations they are in? Why do we perceive war and explosions as a game? Why do we glorify sex, speed and over-extreme masculinity? Why are someone's tragedies our entertainment? While operating in the field of Pop Art, the paintings are conceptual in its nature - not what is displayed matters, but why is it displayed and labeled as art? Think about it.

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