Roy Lichtenstein’s triple screen film installation Three Landscapes is a mesmerising hybrid of film, painting, billboard, comic strip and kinetic spectacle. It is shown here for the first time in Europe in conjunction with Tate Modern’s Lichtenstein: A Retrospective.
Lichtenstein’s only venture into filmmaking premiered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1971 as part of the groundbreaking Art and Technology program. The project placed international artists – including Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and others – in residence 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.
Lichtenstein filmed on Long Island, New York working with independent filmmaker Joel Freedman. The resulting five-minute film loops juxtapose footage of the sea and a tropical fish tank with a static Benday-dot pattern and still images of a blue sky, clouds, and a seagull. The still and moving images are divided by a thick black line that echoes the comic-strip images of his paintings. This black horizon line, which rocks back and forth, combines with the endless repetition of Lichtenstein’s ‘moving pictures’ to produces a contradictory viewing experience, emphasising the flatness of the picture plane while engaging the spectator in an ambient cinematic spectacle.
Three Landscapes was restored recently by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in its original 35 mm format and has been transferred to 16 mm for this presentation at Tate Modern.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) was born and worked in New York City.