Roy Lichtenstein – Pace Palm Beach – Gallery: 340 Royal Poinciana Way, Suite M333 Palm Beach – – Mar 18–Apr 11, 2021

Pace Gallery presents a solo exhibition of ten works by Roy Lichtenstein at the gallery’s seasonal location in Palm Beach, FL. Bringing together a selection of rarely seen works, this presentation features collage, drawing, painting, and sculpture from the 1970s and ‘80s, in particular showcasing Lichtenstein’s return to the iconic theme of the brushstroke across a range of different media.

Borrowing from the signs and symbols of mass culture while mining images from media, advertisements, and commercial illustrations, Lichtenstein developed a singular Pop idiom that playfully challenged the boundaries of “high art” and “low culture.” Over the course of a five-decade career, Lichtenstein’s bold and graphic work was characterized by a probing investigation into the nature of art itself. Rendered in a striking, high-impact style achieved through the use of his signature Ben-Day dot patterning, Lichtenstein’s work challenged notions of visual perception, compositional illusion, and modes of representation. An antidote to the spontaneity of the artist’s hand, his disciplined and controlled use of line imitated the mechanical reproduction and cool artifice of mass-produced imagery.

Lichtenstein first explored the theme of the brushstroke in the 1960s. An abstracted gestural brushstroke first appears as an isolated visual subject in a series of paintings created between 1965 and 1966, after which it became one of the most significant and recurring motifs in his prolific career. These early paintings appropriated the motif from a 1964 comic book story by Dick Giordano, which parodied the legacy of Abstract Expressionism’s heroic and explosive marks, celebrated in the canvases of New York School artists such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lichtenstein returned to the motif of the brushstroke, reinvigorating it by liberating it from the canvas and capturing the gesture of the brushstroke as a three-dimensional form cast in bronze.

Energetic and buoyant yet weighted and bound by gravity, Brushstroke (Tuten 23) (1982) ascends vertically, a precarious stack of teetering brushstrokes in red, yellow, white, and blue. Heavy black outlines suggest a fictive dimensionality and viscosity to the otherwise flattened and frozen brushstrokes. In a series of Brushstroke Head sculptures and drawings from 1986 and 1987, Lichtenstein takes the theme further and reinvents it as the building block for a loose kind of figuration, where the outlines of the brushstroke evoke the contours of a head and a field of raised red Ben-Day dots on its surface become the freckled face of the artist’s comic book heroine. A sweeping yellow stroke delineates the figure’s golden blonde hair.
Marking the culmination of Lichtenstein’s tongue-in-cheek variations on the theme of the brushstroke during the 1980s, the exhibition includes Brushstroke Chair and Ottoman (1986–88), the artist’s extraordinary sculptural rendering of functional furniture made from nothing other than the undulating forms of three-dimensional brushstrokes rendered in cast and painted bronze, their torqued forms parodying the molded wood curves of mid-century design.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) was a leading figure in twentieth-century American art and a pioneer of the Pop Art movement. His groundbreaking and profoundly innovative career employs parody and imitation toward critical and philosophical ends. Borrowing and reworking popular and mass-produced imagery from sources such as advertisements and comic books, Lichtenstein developed a signature style that utilized Ben-Day dots—a rigorous manual process that employed perforated templates to emulate the dot patterns used in commercial printing processes—which elevated both the content and the aesthetic of mass production to the realm of “fine art.”

Above: Roy Lichtenstein, Brushstroke (Tuten 23), 1982, painted and patinated bronze sculpture, 54″ × 27-1/2″ × 11″ (137.2 cm × 69.9 cm × 27.9 cm) © Roy Lichtenstein, courtesy Pace Gallery and Castelli Gallery

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