Roy Lichtenstein

Wall Explosion II

1965

Artist
Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Medium
Enamel on steel
Dimensions
Object: 1702 x 1880 x 102 mm, 110 kg
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1980
Reference
T03083

Not on display

Display caption

This wall-mounted sculpture was based on a painting made two years earlier, entitled 'Varoom'. The source image for both works was an illustration in a popular boys' comic that focused on the Second World War. Like all of Lichtenstein's work this sculpture is ironic. The steel mesh suggests cloud, but it also alludes to the Benday dots used in the printing of comics and newspapers. However, the sculpture has no relation to that process and, indeed, the dots were barely visible in the original illustration. Made at a time when the USA was heavily involved in the Vietnam War, this sculpture can be seen as anaesthetising violence, turning a destructive explosion into a simplified icon of beauty.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T03083 WALL EXPLOSION II 1965

Not inscribed
Enamel on steel, 57 × 74 × 4 (170 × 188 × 10)
Purchased from E.J. Power (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Prov: E.J. Power (purchased from the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend 1965)
Repr: Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, 1971, pl.20

Roy Lichtenstein made a small series of sculptures of explosions in enamelled steel in 1965, most of them in relief (e.g. ‘Wall Explosion I’ and ‘Wall Explosion II’, ‘Explosion I’ and ‘Explosion II’), but including at least two which are free-standing (‘Standing Explosion’ and ‘Desk Explosion’). All these objects derive from the image in the painting ‘Varoom’ 1963 (coll. Mr and Mrs John Powers, New York), which was itself an isolated fragment of cartoon imagery.

Waldman points out that the use of this material enabled Lichtenstein to make an ephemeral form concrete (a paradox which delighted him). She suggests that Lichtenstein's use of an earlier, painted image is similar to the way Ellsworth Kelly uses his paintings as the basis for sculptures.

'Wall Explosion II’ was made in an edition of three, two on this scale and the third larger, 80 × 84in., at the Architectural Porcelain Company in New Jersey.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

Further reading

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Roy Lichtenstein: Wall Explosion II

This week's Work of the Week is Roy Lichtenstein's Wall Explosion II from 1965. 

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