To coincide with our Lichtenstein retrospective, we will be showing the artist’s little-known triple-screen film installation. The only film work Roy ever created, Three Landscapes was first shown in full at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1971 as part of the groundbreaking Art and Technology programme. It was not seen again until its restoration by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2011. Tate Modern’s presentation will be its first full showing outside the United States, except for an early installation of two of the three films at the U.S. Pavilion for Expo ’70, a world’s fair held in Osaka, Japan in 1970.
The Art and Technology project paired international artists - including Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and others – with leading California–based industries, and exhibited the results of their collaborations. Lichtenstein spent two weeks at Universal Studios in February 1969, and decided to make film loops of sky and water, projected on several screens in the gallery. The films relate directly to a group of kinetic landscape collages that he made in the mid-1960s, which used Rowlux – a prismatic plastic - to suggest moving water and light. Landscapes were among the first topics that Lichtenstein turned to following his Pop breakthrough. In no other genre was Lichtenstein so experimental with materials and media, attempting to convey the essence of light and water through illusionistic optical and kinetic effects.
Not only is Three Landscapes an important example of a groundbreaking, early film installation by an artist not normally involved with cinema, it also highlights the fact that Andy Warhol was not the only major Pop artists who made films. Pop is strongly associated with its concern for references to popular culture, but this is an exciting indication of the extent to which Lichtenstein engaged directly with the film industry and its technologies of mechanical reproduction, as well as the pop imagery they produced.
We have been installing the films in The Tanks this week, where it will be playing for free on a five-minute loop from 9 – 12 and 14 – 24 March 2013. If you get a chance to come and see it, it would be great to hear what you think.
You might also want to check out the final weeks of the Oskar Fischinger film installation in Tate Modern’s collection displays. Like Lichtenstein, Fischinger used a multiple screen format, already in 1926! His dazzling films, which anticipate computer animation by several decades, also combined pop imagery with abstraction, and he worked with major film studios like Disney, much as Lichtenstein worked with Universal.