Lichtenstein: A Retrospective Exhibition guide: Room 5: Landscapes/seascapes

‘Art relates to perception, not nature,’ Lichtenstein once stated. In his series of Landscapes 1964–7, the placid emptiness and subtle restraint of each work seems a far cry from the frenzied melodrama of the war and romance paintings, even if a couple of them, such as Sunrise 1965, are derived directly from the background of a comic strip frame.

These land- and sea-scape works are pared down to a series of horizontal lines that represent the essential elements of sky and sea, marked by strips of cloud or rippling waves. The near absence of subject matter and almost abstract scenes freed Lichtenstein to experiment with materials and optical effects.

Sea Shore 1964 was painted onto layered sheets of Plexiglass that add a sense of depth. The artist found another kind of optical excitement in Rowlux – sheets of moulded biconvex plastic that create the illusion of an unstable, shifting surface when viewed from different angles. Seascape and Pink Seascape (both 1965) incorporated Rowlux, about which Lichtenstein explained, ‘these pieces of plastic seemed perfect for sky and water, [which] move or change their appearance constantly as you look at them.’ Such works are also a nod to the dazzle of Op art (Optical art), which made its debut in 1964.

ThreeLandscapes 1970–1, Lichtenstein’s only venture into film, was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the exhibition Art and Technology. Lichtenstein produced a three-screen 35mm film loop installation describing a marine landscape – the bottom half of each film showed the ocean rippling in the sunlight, while the top half depicted the sky in three still images. The film installation will be shown in the Tanks from 9–12 March, and 14–24 March.