Pop art icon Roy Lichtenstein's work on display at Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2012
10/14/12 at 3:40 AM
Roy Lichtenstein was one of the pioneers of the pop art movement, creating wall-sized paintings out of the images one might find paging through 1950s-era comic books.
Yet Lichtenstein's art encompassed a great deal more than the stylized faces of pretty girls or the "SWOOSH!" and "WHAAAM!" of ships and planes in make-believe combat.
Just entering the exhibition space of the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art bears this out.
On one side of the first gallery are a number of the kinds of images that made Lichtenstein famous - or notorious: soulful-eyed girls caught in tearful moment or singing a line from "Stardust," a man's fist delivering a "POW!" to another man's jaw.
It's the other side of the gallery that museum curator Karen York thinks will come as a great surprise to most audiences.
The images here are a series of what look to be abstracts - odd, angular shapes done in Lichtenstein's signature bold black lines and vivid, primary colors.
"These are part of his American Indian series," York said. "He would take images or shapes that appealed to him from any number of Native American art - blankets or pottery, for example - and mix them together in these images."
"Roy Lichtenstein: American Identity" is a show York curated, and it begins its exclusive run Sunday at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art.
The exhibit is drawn from the collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation in Portland, Ore., the same organization that supplied the Sherwin Miller with its recent show of prints by Andy Warhol.
"We established a very good relationship with the foundation as a result of the Warhol show," York said. "They have a collection of some 6,000 works on paper, many of them by the great modernist artists. They also tend to lend their works out primarily to venues on the West Coast. We were the first non-West Coast museum they lent to."
When the foundation offered York the chance to create another show out of its collection, she was immediately drawn to Lichtenstein's work.
"Unfortunately, I was limited - in part because some of the images I wanted had recently been on tour and weren't available and also because our space here is rather small," she said. "But even so, I think we were able to put together an exhibit that will be of interest to our audience."
The theme of "American Identity" also came to York rather quickly.
"He was a third-generation American," York said. "And these people tend to become very American. The grandparents usually remain very strongly attached to the native country, and the parents live with a foot in both worlds. But the kids really embrace being American. And in that sense, Roy Lichtenstein was a typically American kid."
Lichtenstein was born in New York City, lived on the Upper West Side, played in a jazz band and started his artistic career by taking lessons at the Parsons School of Design, earning his degree at Ohio State University.
"He was always fascinated by American culture and history," York said. "This was at the time when abstract expressionism was on the rise, when the idea was that painting should only be about the paint on the canvas, an object that represents nothing.
"And that was a great influence on Lichtenstein," she said. "Even though he was using images that are recognizable, they really are as flat and two-dimensional as any abstract."
It is something that York attributes to Lichtenstein's method of getting his inspiration primarily from printed sources - books, magazines, comic books, even phone books.
Some of the largest images in the show are from Lichtenstein's "Interiors" series - pristine depictions of suites of furniture in sparsely appointed rooms that Lichtenstein based on advertisements for furniture stores he saw in a phone book.
"He uses the same basic palette - you see the same blues, yellows and reds in every picture," York said. "But he would also include a piece of art in the room - his own interpretation of some classic painting."
Or another bit of classic American imagery. York pointed to one image titled "Sortee," which shows an oddly familiar chair.
"That's Dagwood's chair from the 'Blondie' comic strip," she said.
"And that," she added, pointing to the portion of a woman's leg in one corner, "is Blondie leaving the room."
‘ROY LICHTENSTEIN: AMERICAN IDENTITY’
When: Sunday through Jan. 13
Where: Sherwin Miller Museum
of Jewish Art, 2021 E. 71st St.
Tickets: $3.50-$6.50, 918-492-
Original Print Headline: Pop art icon's work on display in unique exhibit
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Works by artist Roy Lichtenstein hang on a wall at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art where the "Roy Lichtenstein: American Identity" exhibit opens on Sunday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
"(Abstract expressionism) was a great influence on Lichtenstein," says Karen York. "Even though he was using images that are recognizable, they really are as flat and two-dimensional as any abstract." CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Roy Lichtenstein's signature is shown at the bottom of one of his works on the wall at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World