Roy Lichtenstein

Wall Explosion II


In Tate Modern

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997
Enamel on steel
Object: 1702 × 1880 × 102 mm, 110 kg
Purchased 1980

Display caption

This wall-mounted sculpture turns an explosion into a stylish icon. There is no sense of any resulting destruction. Lichtenstein made this sculpture at a time when the USA was heavily involved in the Vietnam War. It is based on an illustration in a popular boys’ comic that focused on the Second World War. The blue steel mesh with its regularly punched holes relates to the Benday dots used in printing of comics and newspapers.

Gallery label, August 2018

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Catalogue entry


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


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