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17 Roy Lichtenstein Face 1986 oil, Magna and graphite on canvas 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm) Signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein 86" on the reverse.
Provenance Leo Castelli, New York The Mayor Gallery, London Private Collection Christie's, New York, Post-War & Contemporary Day Session November 11, 2009, lot 150 Acquired at the above sale by the present owner Exhibited London, The Mayor Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein New Paintings and Collages, June - August 1986, no. 5 (illustrated on the cover) Catalogue Essay The inventiveness of Roy Lichtenstein has made him one of the foremost American artists of the last century. His name stands alongside other giants of the Pop Art movement, mentioned in the same breath as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist These artists were seminal for examining the nature of mass imagery and confronting the boundaries of “high and low” art. Each took on a different stance of attack – Lichtenstein used the imagery of comic books, Warhol turned to celebrity and commercial brands, and Rosenquist found influence in the language of billboards. The present work, Face, is a prime example of Lichtenstein’s interest in industrial artifacts and abstraction. Face is an example from Lichtenstein’s later body of work which draws upon art history as a source of exploring the past to elevate the status of contemporary art. The present work pays homage to the works of the Abstract Expressionists translated into the vocabulary of Lichtenstein’s own visual lexicon. Through his use of bold outlines and vivid colors, Lichtenstein is referring to commercial art and using this as a vehicle to lend a fresh voice to the artistic movements of the past. As the artist himself explains, “In Abstract Expressionism the paintings symbolize the idea of ground-directedness as opposed to object-directedness. You put something down, react to it, put something else down, and the painting itself becomes a symbol of this. The difference is that rather than symbolize this ground-directedness I do an object-directed appearing thing. There is humor here. The work is still ground-directed; the fact that it’s an eyebrow or an almost direct copy of something is unimportant. The ground-directedness is in the painter’s mind and not immediately apparent in the painting.” (Roy Lichtenstein in What is Pop Art? Interviews with eight painters, G. R. Swenson, Art News 67, November 1963) Face reminds the viewer of the unbreakable tie of gesture and mark-making, whether it is mechanical or organic. Lichtenstein’s manipulation and a-syncopation of color, contour and shape provoke an equilibrium of aesthetics. Face embodies several elements seen throughout the major works of Lichtenstein’s œuvre: the use of dominant primary colors, the figure of a blonde woman and large brushstrokes. At first glance, the viewer is greeted by this familiar smiling blonde female. Yet the moment the viewer discovers her, she falls apart. Her hair, eyes, nose and mouth are all mere suggestions by the artist’s hand – as the elements composing her face are only brushstrokes. These amorphous large brushstrokes both engage and isolate the viewer, making the composition come together and dissemble at once. This can be seen as a philosophical musing by the artist on the history of all painting, as no matter how "realistic" a representation may appear, it is always a collection of brush strokes and marks made by the artist’s hand. Dorothy Lichtenstein once said of her late husband, “Roy viewed all of his paintings as abstract lines and marks on canvas, no matter what they looked like.” (Dorothy Lichtenstein in exhibition catalogue, Lichtenstein: Modern Painting by Dave Hickey, New York: Richard Gray Gallery, 2010, p. 5) In Face we find this astute observation undeniably true. Read More
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