signed and dated 67 on the reverse
Lawrence Levine, New York
James Goodman Gallery, New York
James Shelton Jr., Texas
Spanierman Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2006
Begun the year of his first major retrospective, the 'Modern' series signalled an important departure for Roy Lichtenstein that was to influence the course and the evolution of his mature career over the next 20 years. Whereas his 'Comic' and 'Brushstroke' paintings of the early 1960s took their subjects and inspiration from the prevailing high and low art forms of the decade in which they were painted, in the 'Modern' paintings, Lichtenstein began what was to become a lifelong retrospective engagement with art of the past; specifically in this series with Art Deco and its self-consciously "Modern" aesthetic of the 1930s.
In Untitled (Modern Painting), Lichtenstein condenses Modernism's angular, constructivist principles into a perfectly balanced, rectangular composition, in which lines of speed and defining characteristics of Art Deco become transformed by the bold aesthetic of his signature Benday dots and outlines. Just like he had with the comic book paintings, Lichtenstein's Modern paintings emphasise the way in which size, position, brightness and texture are frequently lost through mass produced reproductions; and how individual attributes of style and uniqueness are smoothed over to become non-descript, clichéd aesthetics. Through his reductive visual language, Modernism's embrace of new technologies and materials and its preference for revolutionary rather than evolutionary design are flattened into anonymous shapes with a purely symbolic role. Glistening brass surfaces and ornate industrial details become flat planes of vibrant yellow, blue and white, all delineated against a buzzing backdrop of Benday dots that achieves a new level of technical proficiency. Layered on one top of the other, the individual forms, patterns and colours of the composition coexist in visual harmony creating an illusion of volume and space beyond the confines of the densely packed canvas.
Compositionally, the Modern series allowed Lichtenstein greater creative freedom to fully explore the possibilities of his painting style than had been possible in the comic and brushstroke paintings. It also gave him the confidence to put forward the argument for style over content, echoing Marshall McLuhan's creed that 'the medium is the message.' "These paintings take the populist, commercial style of the 1930's – the Art Deco of ocean liners, theatre foyers and enamelled jewellery – as a source of form in opposition to the simplified lines of more respected design...Right-angled but garrulous, abstract but frantically playful, these paintings catch without qualms the heavy design sense of the period. These tightly locked geometrics were, as the artist has pointed out, originally emblems of the future. However, enough time has passed for us to be overwhelmed by a sense of these forms' remoteness. There is a poignant sense of time as we look at the symbolic geometry that derives from a decade in which, to quote Lichtenstein, 'they felt much more modern than we feel we are now." (Lawrence Alloway, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1983, p. 40)
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale