This week’s Work of the Week is Roy Lichtenstein’s Wall Explosion II from 1965.
Lichtenstein was a chief artist in the American Pop Art scene, and is best known for his paintings based on images from comic books. He admired the skill of the commercial artist who could condense complex stories of love and war into cartoon form. When these comic strip works were first shown, in the early 1960s, they sparked controversy. Lichtenstein was accused of merely copying his sources, but he stressed the changes he made to the composition.
My work is actually different from the comic strips in that every mark is really in a different place, however slight the difference seems to some. The difference is often not great, but it is crucial.
Lichtenstein also made a number of sculptural objects throughout his career. This wall-mounted sculpture is based on Varoom!, a painting he made two years earlier. Lichtenstein made a series of sculptural works from this painting, mostly wall based like this one, but also including some free standing works. The comic strip that Lichtenstein used as the basis for these works was taken from a popular boys comic about the Second World War. Lichtenstein was apparently delighted by the paradox of making an explosion, an ephemeral thing, into a concrete representation. Using a mesh to suggest the cloud of smoke not only gives the sensation of the billowing vapour, but makes a playful visual reference to Ben-Day dots, a printing technique often used to produce colour mixes in comics and newspapers.
The Work of the Week feature will showcase a work from the Tate Collection each week.