I’m Iria Candela, the co-curator of Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Tate Modern, a major new exhibition which was conceived by Sheena Wagstaff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and James Rondeau at the Art Institute of Chicago. As most of you know, Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) is one of the central figures of American Pop art. Internationally famous for his iconic comic book works showing war scenes and romantic vignettes, he somehow does not need an introduction. And yet, when we started this project, it was a surprising revelation to discover how many areas of his varied and expansive practice remain comparatively unknown. This is the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist ever attempted. We therefore conceived the exhibition as a long overdue reassessment of his artistic achievements, exploring both famous and little-known aspects of his work.

  • Roy Lichtenstein Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But… 1964

    Roy Lichtenstein, Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But… 1964

    © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

The show brings together approximately 125 of the artist’s most definitive paintings and sculptures, as well as a remarkable selection of works on paper. Their display at Tate Modern has been organized chronologically but attending to themes and subjects that concerned the artist at different stages of his life. Besides including his most iconic Pop paintings which many visitors will be expecting to see, there are some other unexpected works that may blow your imagination, such as his series of Mirrors or his landscapes in the Chinese style.

Roy Lichtenstein Landscape in Fog 1996

Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape in Fog 1996

© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012

Lichtenstein was one of the more intellectual of the Pop artists – commenting on the artifice of painting and, among other things, the notions of authorship and originality in the context of mass media culture. At the same time, his paintings have a sensational visual power, and emanate high doses of humour and wit which I hope you will appreciate when you visit the show.

Working on this exhibition took four years of preparation – extensive research followed by curatorial travel and loan negotiations to be able to secure many works that are kept in private collections, some of which have never been publicly seen. I look forward to hearing your comments and impressions and to share more stories with you throughout the duration of the show, which opens to the public on 21 February.

Comments

cjrw57

Iria, enjoyed the exhibition and it is a well-curated journey through Lichtenstein's artistic and thematic journey. Interesting is the debate above about appropriation of the original Comic designers' works, and of course plagiarism is a never-ending part of the reference in the history of art. The audio guide was interesting for a view of many of the paintings, although i felt the final comments rather pretentious after the Chinese room; I would like to have discovered a bit more about Roy's development from his early dot mechanics via the Benday to finding larger sheets of metal to achieve his more clinical finish. But logically as an artist becomes more successful he has better resources. It would also be useful to know the price of each artwork as he progressed- no doubt 'Whaam!" has a big price tag, and he secured a living very rapidly after the poster repro revolution that we witnessed in the 70s and 80s.

stratman

What a stunning show! Saw a similar exhibition some years ago in Washington DC, but never tire of these works. Scale of some of the paintings is magnificent, but at times so subtle as well. Gorgeous colour. Thought the exhibition was very well organised and the running order made much sense. Favourites - the Artist's Studio room, and the Chinese themes. Well done, Tate - worth my membership just for this one!

My only complaint (and it's not a new one) is about the size of the title-labels at the side of each work. Quite impossible to read without leaning across the security rope. I do understand the need not to detract from the paintings, but given the size of most of the Lichtensteins this was unlikely to happen! The labels seem to get smaller with every exhibition! Fortunately, I had the tour app on my i-Phone, which was great.

penniethomson@a...

Great show.
The little paperback book, How Modern Art Was Saved By Donald Duck ( Alistair Sooke) is brilliant and worth every penny of the £4.99. Enlightening and very readable, I am certainly going back to see the exhibition again on the strength of it.

penniethomson@a...

Great show.
The little paperback book, How Modern Art Was Saved By Donald Duck ( Alistair Sooke) is brilliant and worth every penny of the £4.99. Enlightening and very readable, I am certainly going back to see the exhibition again on the strenth of it.

Josephine

I visited the exhibition with family and friends and we are still talking about it! Healthy disagreement on the art, but all in magreement about the excellent curation and variety of styles displayed,

guyhornsby

I absolutely loved the retrospective. I've always been a pop art fan, and one of Lichtenstein, but I'd only seen a few of his works, so to see such a huge collection in one place was brilliant. It's only then you see the scale of his work, and also the themes that lie in it (though these are spread, interestingly, over many years) that you can appreciate it, and it's only made me love the artist more.

Looking at the length and breadth of the different owners of the works I can only commend the work you'd done to put this together. It ranks as one of my favourite shows since the Modern opened, and i'll be back again.

NewCrossGem

I hadn't seen any of his sculptures before, so I found that aspect of the show quite surprising - I had thought of him as solely working in 2D, and I enjoyed seeing the humour of the paintings seep out into 3 dimensional space.
It was also interesting to see his early abstract works in relation to his later work.

jam_lim

Lichtenstein was one of the many appropriators, appropriation basically was Pop Art. Whether it was taken out of the skip by Rauschenberg, pilfered from commercial art of the supermarket aisle by Warhol or stripped from the comic books of ones children, it was all relevant source material. Who created the original imagery is irrelevant, it is a kitsch cycle of fine art inspiring, commercial art, inspiring fine art, etc.

It is plainly obvious that the Pop Artists shamelessly stole from the commercial artists, such as cartoonists and designers. We are not under the impression that Cambell's Soup tins were created by Warhol, so why are people still so shocked that Lichtenstein took cartoons and repainted them. Clearly we know and understand that an illustrator produced the original items but fortunately it is not the re-representation of these images that is the art in question, it is the implied ideas that the artist puts forward. Lichtenstein used Picasso's imagery, Picasso stole from Goya, Goya was influenced by Velazquez, who was inspired by Caravaggio, Caravaggio was stylistically influenced by Titian, and so it goes on. The designer who created the Coca Cola bottle would have been influenced by things around him, it is extremely challenging being an artist if you don't observe, and how can you possibly observe without becoming effected in someway. It is true to say that it is important for the viewer to have a posteriori knowledge to fully appreciate a work, yet without it the painting still needs to work as a balanced composition. The motifs Lichtenstein used in his studio paintings for example might be missed by some, such as the fish in the bowl or the dancers on the wall but not appreciating the reference doesn’t prevent the viewers enjoyment.

I loved Lichtenstein's wit. The only thing I found missing was my favourite painting. Lichtenstein struggled with the idea of Abstract Expressionism, the art of the previous art movement in America, the art of his tutors and possibly a style on the wane. An relationship said to be depicted in 'Look Mickey' (1961) and 'Popeye' (1961) is I think more subtly painted in 'I Can See the Whole Room!... and There's Nobody in it!' (1961) where I believe he is referencing the Colour Field artists like Reinhardt and Kelly, with the black canvas and the suggestion that no ones in the gallery looking at the work. I guess it would have been totally out of place at the Tate, as the gallery was packed with viewers, students sketching, people trying to sneak photos with there iPhones; there was something that seemed to capture the interest of everyone.

Thanks Iria - Jamie

Ade211

Looking forward to this. In 1968 went to the Tate for the first time. Saw his work. Amazing. So looking forward to this exhibition. We are so lucky to have a wealth of great art to see. Keep it up.

valmorin5

Great,an exhibition that coincides with a project that my son is doing at school...wait,checking ticket prices combined with train fares it is totally impossible for him to go.Why do child prices stop at 12?
We can just buy a book and cut out the pictures instead.How sad is that.

WWW_2012

Thank you for giving us some background on the Lichtenstein retrospective, and good luck with your exhibition.

However, I have to agree with ‘jfire’: much of Lichtenstein’s work is based on the unsanctioned appropriation of artwork originally created by working comic book artists including such luminaries as Jack Kirby and Joe Kubert (amongst many others). As far as I am aware, these artists (who, incidentally, also wrote comic books during their careers) were never paid for the use of their work in Lichtenstein’s art and have never received any payment from the huge revenue generated over the past few decades by sales of Lichtenstein’s appropriation of their original art. Permission to use their art has also never been granted as far as I am aware.

Unfortunately, the art establishment continues to sanction what is, in my opinion, little more than artistic theft by supporting the regular exhibition of Lichtenstein’s reproduction of original comic book art. By doing so, the art world also perpetuates the popular misperception of the comic book medium as an inherently juvenile or insignificant storytelling medium. It saddens me that the Tate is happy to endorse this process by also selling so-called ‘pop art’ memorabilia (such as Lichtenstein cushions for £15).

Perhaps the Tate would consider donating some of the revenue generated from the Lichtenstein exhibition and products to an organisation such as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (http://cbldf.org/), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics medium and fighting censorship?

jfire

It's difficult to appreciate Lichtenstein knowing the extent to which he appropriated images created by others into his works.

There's an excellent site here, which shows how he copied the works of comics artists Jack Kirby, Tony Abruzzo, Joe Kubert, John Romita and others:

http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

It's one thing to inspiration from popular culture, but Lichtenstein's method was closer to plagiarism.

It's dispiriting when you consider that the original artists worked "for hire" without regular salaries, health insurance or pensions while Lichtenstein became rich and his works still sell for millions.

LeighD

My birthday on Feb 24th - what better way to enjoy it than to visit this new exhibition ;-)

Was the Tate moiré logo inspired by Roy's innovations I wonder ....?

Regards,
LeighD

Lino

Thank you Iria, looking forward to enjoy it next time in London
congratulations for your endeavour
Best wishes
Lino

Plamen Yordanov

Wonderful!
We wish one day to afford you to do similar exhibition for us at MoMA Chicago!
All the best!
plamen

WWW_2012

Good to see Dave Gibbons' critique of Lichtenstein's unsanctioned use of original comic book art on on The Culture Show on BBC. Mr Gibbons is a highly respected comic book artist and it was instructive to note that he views the 'Whamm!' piece as essentially a copy. Remember that the original artists received no payment for the unsanctioned use of their work. I wonder how the Lichtenstein Foundation would respond if someone scanned a Lichtenstein piece, made some minor colour changes and then made the new piece available for commercial sale?

ArtistChitraRam...

Thank you for your email informing about the show and specially your blog which I read with great interest. Congratulations, and your efforts to make this forthcoming exhibition possible.

It is a treat to have the opportunity to view Leichenstein's work from private collections.

Very best wishes

Piixy

So looking forward to @Tate visit next time I'm in London especially for Lichtensten's Landscapes the Chinese style!!

Rhonda Davis

Hi Iria

Thank you for sharing your ideas as a curator taking us through a behind the scenes look in the production stage was really interesting and informative especially in regard to Lichenstein's lesser known works. The Chinese influence shown in the work 'Landscape in Fog' is most illuminating. Look forward to reading your further posts.

with best wishes