Art / London / Reviews

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

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We often take the city we live in for granted, so this bank holiday weekend, I decided to have a good old tourist day, which was spent wandering around central london, snapping the sights and finally going to the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern. I’d never been 100% convinced by Lichtenstein’s work, possibly not quite understanding it’s artistic merit as I had never seen any in the flesh. However, I can safely say I’ve now completely changed my mind.

Although photography is strictly prohibited (probably because they want to make sure you buy the postcards in the gift shop) I managed to take some sneaky photos despite the concrete gaze of the gallery staff.

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The exhibition is clean and clear, and interestingly the curators have decided against displaying the pieces in complete chronological order, which I thought was a little strange as every once in a while a really early painting would pop out of nowhere. However, I think it was still successful and clear as each room had a distinct theme (such as ‘Brushstrokes’ or ‘War and Romance’) which still helped me understand the progression of his style throughout his career.
At first, I thought that the use of bright, primary colours and the clear cartoon style distracted away from the clear social and political issues (a trapped woman’s role in the home as she is depicted attached to domestic objects, or the horrific tragedy of war, to name a couple of examples), and that this worked as a negative. Then I began to think that perhaps this was the point. In reality tragic or brutal issues are glamorised or glossed over, and perhaps that was what Lichtenstein was doing on purpose. Then I thought that I had been around pretentious arty types for too long!
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To have such a vast selection of Lichtenstein’s pieces in one place is a rare treat. The exhibition allows you to see the contrast and progression from early sketches, where is famous style is nowhere to be seen, to beautiful chinese inspired landscapes, which he created not long before his death. Even paintings of the most domestic settings, such as empty bedrooms, or images butter being spread on toast created in plexiglass, are made humorous and eye-catching.

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Whether you are a lover of pop art or not, you should definitely consider heading over to the Tate Modern to check this out. I haven’t enjoyed an exhibition this much for a while.

Tickets can be bought online here, and it is running until 27th May 2013.

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6 thoughts on “Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

  1. Pingback: Be a Tourist for a Day | KingLilith

  2. I have always liked Lichtenstein’s work ever since I first saw it in the seventies in London. However in some ways it was more powerful then as it was culturally as well as visually powerful, whereas today the revolution that was ‘pop’ art is hard appreciate, as the everyday is an ubiquitous part of what informs art practice.

    • I agree – perhaps that was why I wasn’t convinced before I’d visited this exhibition. I found the exhibition both culturally and visually powerful, but perhaps more as a snapshot of an era of the past.
      If you’re in London and you have the chance you should definitely visit. Having so much Lichtenstein in one place is great.

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