Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Defense of Pop Art: Then & Now.

There has been a splatter of opinions about Pop Art in the blogosphere lately. It was set in motion by a thoughtful piece by Scott Edelman regarding the trompe l'oeil paintings by Sharon Moody.  I'd never heard of her before last weekend but I am very impressed with her extreme photo realism. Although my own tastes tend towards primitive, minimalistic, and conceptual art work, I've always had a soft spot for Chuck Close since I saw my first giant painting face-to-face in 1972 when he was a big-effin-deal in NYC gallery system. (His medical challenges changed his work and it's even more amazing now).

I understand the hows and whys of the comic art community's current complaints.
I do.
I don't agree but I do get it.

I also believe there is another side particularly when it comes to Roy Lichtenstein.

These pop art/Roy Lichtenstein dust-ups happen every few years-particularly since the advent of the Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein website. In 1989 in the midst of a contemporary controversy in the letter column of Comics Buyer's Guide I wrote a letter to the editors, Don & Maggie Thompson, in defense of Lichtenstein. To my amazement then (and even now) they decided to run it as an article.
I got paid for it.
I believe I signed a back-of-the-check work-made-for-hire release for it so it belongs to them--not me.

I include links to old photocopies of the article for purely historical reasons. You can read my two page piece by following these links: page 1 and page 2. It's shown without permission.

As I explain in the piece, Lichtenstein stopped doing comic book paintings in 1965. That was 24 years before I wrote the piece in 1989. 22 years have passed since.
A lot of water under the bridge.
My bridge anyway.

I still believe all the things I said.
Most of the questions I asked I believe are still valid and mostly unanswered.

My favorite Lichtenstein works are still the mirrors and brushstrokes.
I'm really not trying to change any one's mind--my mind is set and most likely, so is yours.


JB said...

You do seem to have made one factual error that attacks a bit of your thesis. The Deconstructing page has a Mickey Mouse panel...

Other than that, interesting stuff...

Larry Marder said...

Good catch, JB. The Deconstructing site shows good comparative examples but it doesn't give any more information beyond the visual.

The Mickey and Donald painting you refer to was done in 1961. He had no idea anyone would ever see it or that it might be sold someday. It was an experimental transitional painting as he was groping his way from the money art of the day, Abstract Expressionism, towards....something new--which ended up being called
Pop Art.

This drawing called Bug Bunny
give a good indication of the transition as it took place over these formative years.

It's my understanding that a lot of the drawings and paintings done during these formative years were never shown or sold and were in fact destroyed.

However, being a starving artist (and in the late 50s-early 60s ALL of the Pop Artists were broke and living off of their day jobs) they sold what they could to whoever would buy and so some of this work does surive to this day.

Most of the important classic paintings of all the key Pop Artists were sold for rent money to collectors willing to take a chance on the work.

Mark I. said...

Interesting. I hadn't looked at those paintings that way before.

Makes me wonder if some comic book artist out there set a scene in an art gallery/museum and had one of Lichtenstein's paintings from that period on the wall. That would be amusing.

Scott Edelman said...

Interesting piece. We're going to have to agree to disagree on Lichtenstein, but oddly, as much as I dislike Lichtenstein, I like Moody's appropriation less. His attempts to tweak the images were more transformational (how I hate that word!) than hers in my opinion, and even though I have little respect for what he did, he did attempt to add some of his own personality to the original artists' styles. She IMHO did not.

BTW, I visited the gallery to see her images in person Saturday, and here's how I feel now:


David Barsalou MFA said...

Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein Flickr Site
David Barsalou MFA