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I pressed the irony control, and around me halftone dots filled the sky
April 2, 2013 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Comic artists razz Lichtenstein with the Image Duplicator show
posted by Artw (72 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man. You can hear that axe grinding from four or five decades away.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:32 AM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Lichtenstein is totally grind worthy. The ultimate example of the Artist As Priest Of Cultural Acceptance. Oh this art, it's not REAL art, but if I copy it and put it in a place of Art then will become Art through my mystic mediation.

Plus he was a terrible draughtsman and most of the original panels he copied have better composition.
posted by The Whelk at 10:36 AM on April 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


His lettering sucks too.
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


TOTALLY.
posted by The Whelk at 10:39 AM on April 2, 2013


Oh this art, it's not REAL art, but if I copy it and put it in a place of Art then will become Art through my mystic mediation.

But that's no more meaningful a criticism of Lichtenstein than saying "Man, nobody credits what a wonderful piece of design that urinal was that Duchamp appropriated! The original urinal designer totally got robbed!" The point of Lichtenstein's comics paintings (and it should be noted that in a long a varied career that's only one--albeit the most famous--strand of the art that he produced) was the act of transgressing cultural contexts. The original comics artists weren't putting blow-ups of their work on art gallery walls.

The old adage about modern art="I could do that"+"yeah, but you didn't think of it" seems appropriate here. The point of a Lichtenstein comics painting is not "OMG, look at the amazingly refined and subtle technique, truly this is the hand of a master!" any more than that is the point of Andy Warhol's soup cans or soap boxes.
posted by yoink at 10:45 AM on April 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


yoink, you make fair points.

But you also have to realize the scale of what he just copied and never attributed.
posted by vacapinta at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like Lichtenstein and I like this, too. Not all art appreciation has to be zero-sum, winner takes all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's also worth noting here that most of the images in the linked piece seem weirdly beside the point (other than the one at the top [the guy looking into the art world] and the "I pressed the irony control" one [which is hilarious]). The others seem to be into some kind of weird "look, I can draw better than Lichtenstein!" or "look, I'm a better comic-artist than Lichtenstein" jag--which is, well, there's a "Whoooosh" in there, sure, but it's the whoosh of people completely missing the point.

Lichtenstein didn't write comic books. He didn't make some claim to be redeeming or discovering the "high art" values of comic book illustration. You weren't supposed to look at a Lichtenstein and say "gosh, that's some darn fine comic book art; this Lichtenstein guy really shows me what comics-style art is really capable of! I'll go read his comic books now, because they're clearly so much better than the usual trash!" And that, basically, seems to be the phantom Lichtenstein that many of these artists are wanting to argue with.
posted by yoink at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lichtenstein wasn't comic book art. It was graphic, novel art.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:52 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Roy Dicktensthein more like.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 10:54 AM on April 2, 2013


Well yes I know it's the gallery art world talking to itself and the point is that it's a thing in a gallery so we are asked to look at it differently - I get it, I really do, the takeaway from Warhol's soup cans is the beauty and simplicity of everyday objects and the pleasure of repetition and the giddy confidence of commercial art. What gets me in Litchenstein going "hey these old pulp panels have a real visceral impact, this element of pop culture deserves our attention" aaaaand then re-painting them badly. It's insulting to the original artists to not only take their work, wash their names off, and present his versions of them as the only versions worth considering as respectable art objects (plus the giddy white wine thrill of art gallery transgression.)

If I was in a mood to be super marxist I'd say it's another in a long line of cultural appropriation of working-class artists and designers who are in no position to defend themselves.
posted by The Whelk at 10:55 AM on April 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Plus, you know, all the badmouthing he did of the original artists.
posted by The Whelk at 10:56 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Duchamp's urinal stunt was clever. But it was a clever-once thing in friggin' 1917.
posted by Zed at 10:56 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's also worth noting here that most of the images in the linked piece seem weirdly beside the point

I was just about to say the same thing -- only the Gibbons piece seems to really be on-point among all of the other work being presented, most of which seem to veer wildly off-point.
posted by Shepherd at 10:56 AM on April 2, 2013


realize the scale of what he just copied and never attributed

Art appreciation might not be a zero-sum game for me, but I could see how it would be winner-takes-all for artists in the art world.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:28 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You may badmouth his lettering, but at least he could do feet and avoid pouches.
posted by Samizdata at 11:29 AM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


But you also have to realize the scale of what he just copied and never attributed.

But, again, that only is a "scandal" if you kinda missed the whole point of what he was doing. Nobody thought that Lichtenstein was creating these comics images out of whole cloth; nobody thought that what we were supposed to admire in the work was the sophistication or subtle artistry of the image design. What was interesting about them was, precisely, that he was taking something widely regarded as disposable commercial image-making and blowing selected fragments of it up into monumental paintings that were hung in the context of high-culture high-prestige art. Being scandalized by him "copying" images here is like being scandalized that a work of collage uses the original art of some commercial magazine photographer without specifically crediting his/her work.

I think part of the problem for younger people looking at Lichtenstein is that there is a whole "high culture" language of art appreciation for comic-book illustration now--something that simply didn't exist (or existed, perhaps, only on the far, far margins) back when Lichtenstein started doing these works. (Of course, one of the great ironies is what Lichtenstein did contributed to the "mainstreaming" of comic-book art.) That makes it harder to see the cultural work that Lichtenstein was performing because, essentially, you get distracted by a type of aesthetic response that Lichtenstein himself simply wasn't interested in.

What gets me in Litchenstein going "hey these old pulp panels have a real visceral impact, this element of pop culture deserves our attention" aaaaand then re-painting them badly.


But that isn't what he was doing. He wasn't saying "wow, comic book art is amazing! We should all go look at more comic book art!"
posted by yoink at 11:35 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Basically my issue is that everything that's interesting about Lichtenstein is a symptom of the gallery system which Lichtenstein's work exploits rather than critiques.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Exactly, it's more gaming within and around the gallery system which helped an already insular and closed-off world become even more hermetically sealed.

And yes the urinal is a great joke, in 1917, in the context of the art world at the time. You can say "well you have to put it in the context of what was going on." and I say "yes, I can and I do, and I still think it's a lame thing to do."
posted by The Whelk at 11:38 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mis-parsed the sentence, and now I'm sad that there isn't really a comic artist named "Razz Lichtenstein".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:40 AM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, speaking as a comics artist, I find his comments on comic art insulting and patronizing. I know that gallery art requires the context of the gallery and the culture surrounding them, but I can also think they're wrong.
posted by The Whelk at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2013


Lichenstein and originals side-by-side.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


You may badmouth his lettering, but at least he could do feet and avoid pouches.

I'm seeing a Big Comics Event. I'm seeing an artist, riddled with neo-gamma rays and made unstoppably powerful and insane with self-contradiction, suddenly torn in two, tearing himself to pieces in pursuit simultaneously of the upper boundaries of High Art and the lowest limits of Pop Culture, and ripping the universe apart in the process. I'm seeing Robby Lichtfeld. I'm seeing Crisis On Infinite Panels.
posted by cortex at 11:48 AM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interestingly, a very similar issue surfaced up a couple of years ago with the photorealistic reproductions of Sharon Moody. A number of people were less than impressed.
posted by themadthinker at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2013


Those Moody paintings I actually like, and I don't really buy that viewers will assume Moody created the depicted books out of whole cloth. It seems very in line with the photorealist tradition which generally is recreating extant objects.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:04 PM on April 2, 2013


And the long existing tradition of trompe l'oeil or the "super" realists, where everything is in high detail and focus.
posted by The Whelk at 12:06 PM on April 2, 2013


And from 2000: Copycat row hits Turner Prize
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on April 2, 2013


And although the hyperreallist seam was worked out over thirty years ago, Moody's stuff is well done in its way, and fits neatly into the never-dying tradition of making tasteful paintings for the walls of the very rich. The problem with Lichtenstein is that he's simply not a very good painter - I had a very informative discussion* with a (painter) friend who'd just been to see the Lichtenstein show before settling with relief into the Schwitters show at Tate Britain. Lichtenstein's work is simultaneously clumsily done and intellectually so shallow you wouldn't get your toenails wet - it's difficult to see what they have to recommend them other than the popularity of Whaaam!. Compare him with Warhol (whose work was various and often beautiful) and it's embarrassing. The reason it's insulting to the comic book artists is that he took workmanlike drawings (that often reveal considerable craft if you look at them carefully) and made dumb, crude, inept and ugly copies of them.

What I'd like to see is the very panels he copied from blown up to the size of the paintings he made from them (which isn't what the Image Duplicator show is about, is it?).

*Well, rant, really. But a good rant.
posted by Grangousier at 12:17 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can someone link to these badmouthing comments that Lichtenstein made that are so insulting?

I saw a Lichtenstein retrospective last year and the blown up comics were only a small fraction of the work he did. In fact, he did not credit Monet either when he painted halftone hay bales. That scoundrel!

Overall, I think his work is kind of funny and jokey in a way people seem to miss when they're looking for something to whinge about.
posted by mike_bling at 12:25 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lichtenstein was basically my gateway drug into modern art... I went to the old Tate as a teenager and Whaam! totally blew me away.

Still like his stuff, and I think the rip off aspects is balanced by the art history context of it
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:29 PM on April 2, 2013


"The IMPORTANT thing to stress is that you’d be going back to the source material and re-reappropriating (sic) Coletta, Novick, Kirby et al – NOT copying Lichtenstein, as we don’t want copyright issues from the Lichtenstein estate "

The irony. It burns with the blue flame from countless cosmic suns.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:29 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not really bothered by the so-called rip-off aspect of Lichtenstein, but as Grangousier said, a lot of the comics-panels paintings are just ugly and uninteresting as aesthetic objects-- especially when compared to the original panels. Look at this set. The Lichtenstein painting has no motion, no compositional tension, and not really much respect for human anatomy. It's flat and lifeless-- and part of what these pieces are about is, as yoink says, recontextualizing banal everydays, but the banality of the works is manufactured by the pieces. They end up not recontextualizing anything, because the material referenced-- the original panels-- are hella more interesting. It's like the pieces set out to reframe something that was banal and everyday, found out that it wasn't nearly as banal as they thought, and then mocked it up to look worse so that the juxtaposition was heightened.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:44 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lichtenstein's comics panels seem more sour and outdated every year. The point of them was, as yoink rightly says, not to create aesthetic objects. It was to have a laugh (or a "wow") at the irony of putting banal, mass-produced objects in a gallery space. But that's only funny or impressive if you're both struck by the aesthetic banality of comics, and awed by the gatekeeping respectability of art galleries. But of course, comics aren't visually banal (though Lichtenstein tries to represent them as such), and galleries are only culturally important gatekeepers if they act as repositories of culturally impressive things. Lichenstein is sort of trying to undermine the gallery's cultural importance, but that only works if they admit him (and to their shame, they did). Essentially, the joke is only funny if you accept a bunch of ugly and untrue premises.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:52 PM on April 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


he was taking something widely regarded as disposable commercial image-making

Well, exactly.

I too get Duchampian art-as-appropriation, recontexualization-itself-as-art-practice, yes, too. The thing about Duchamp's urinal is that it is not simply a re-evaluation in an new light; the process of appropriation actively removes the agency of the designer of the urinal.

Or in other words: it's because the implication is "oh, but nobody really designed that urinal!" that the urinal itself can appear as an art object.

If I took a few objects designed by Dieter Rams and put them on display at a gallery, or if I took a chunk of Sol LeWitt's allover wall drawings and re-hung them at a gallery, no doubt part of the reception would be that my art wasn't recontextualizing enough. In other words, "it's already art".

An art gaze that examines "things that aren't art" is already imparting heavy judgment, not because it's not talking about how the readymade can become art. it's how an appropriation of the readymade is simultaneously a formal appreciation, and at the same time a stripping away of the creative agency of the original creator.
posted by suedehead at 12:58 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


It may be missing the point, but I'd prefer Lichtenstein's comic panel work if he was working in that vein but doing original panels -- the lifting without even an "after X" credit really does rub me the wrong way.

Though oddly enough, I am very much pro-sampling and collage and stuff -- perhaps Lichtenstein doesn't engage in the panels enough? There's not as much of a transformative effect there other than in the context. I suppose you can say that's true with the readymades as well, but -- as suedehead says, with readymades, you can't really say "well, that was already art". That might be a situation of timing as well, I don't know. But I think there's... I don't know, even if you think of comics as Items and not Art, it seems that Comic Panel => Painting[1] is a lot closer a shift than Urinal => Sculpture. If that makes any sense? Basically, you'd have to work harder, I think, to argue that a urinal is a sculpture in and of itself.

That said, FWIW, I really really really like Lichtenstein's Brush Stroke Series.


[1] I'm using "painting" here to refer to "2-Dimensional Visual Art" just a'cause I don't think I have the artistic vocabulary to know the right word.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 2:45 PM on April 2, 2013


Yoink, you assume that the prankster Duchamp and Warhol, patient zero of the irony disease, are worthwhile artists. Lichtenstein was a smug thief, ripping off starving comic book artists for fame. I've argued against him for a long time, and I still think there's more worth in one Steve Ditko frame than all his art.

I'm surprised nobody has blown up videogame assets and stuck them on a gallery wall.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:46 PM on April 2, 2013


Being scandalized by him "copying" images here is like being scandalized that a work of collage uses the original art of some commercial magazine photographer without specifically crediting his/her work.

When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:50 PM on April 2, 2013



I love Roy Lichtenstein's paintings. Also, from what I've heard, he was the nicest guy in the world.
posted by R. Mutt at 2:53 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yoink, you assume that the prankster Duchamp and Warhol, patient zero of the irony disease, are worthwhile artists

Now listen here buddy Duchamp and Warhol are fairly essential and I don't want to hear another peep otherwise.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:54 PM on April 2, 2013


Video game art has been on gallery walls since the mid 90s.

Depends on the Gallery of course, mostly on the West Coast which is more populist and open in general, but there was a huuuuuge video game in pop culture as art thing in LA like, five? Years ago.
posted by The Whelk at 2:58 PM on April 2, 2013


Then again California is the home of Pop Surrealism, which manages to produce art that people other than bankers trying to launder some serious money want to buy.
posted by The Whelk at 2:59 PM on April 2, 2013


When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?

lord would you give your aesthetic crankery a rest already
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?

Um, the entire 20th century?
posted by shakespeherian at 3:06 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yoink, you assume that the prankster Duchamp and Warhol, patient zero of the irony disease, are worthwhile artists.

No, you are misunderstanding my argument entirely. I'm not saying "Lichtenstein is great because what he was doing was similar to what those guys were doing and what they were doing was so great." I'm saying "the criticisms you are making are missing the point of what he was doing which was like what those other guys were doing which was not at all about the inherent aesthetic qualities of the objects they produced." You can think its all crap if you like, and that's really neither here nor there; but it is simply misunderstanding the nature of his art to witter on about the images not being "original." Their unoriginality is the point--or, at least, is central to their point. No one was ever in any doubt about this, by the way, right from the start. Critics talked about the fact that Lichtenstein was copying comic book panels from the beginning. No one bought a Lichtenstein thinking "yay, this is a startlingly original contribution to the genre of comic book art" and was then shocked, shocked to discover that he'd (gasp) copied some other, more original, artist's work.

ripping off starving comic book artists for fame

Do you feel the same way about Warhol's soup cans? Are we to shed tears for the original designer of those beautiful, beautiful labels? What about the Mobil Gas sign in Edward Hopper's wonderful painting of a gas station? Is it a terrible crime that he doesn't acknowledge the original artist who created the flying horse logo? Walker Evans's photos of posters: are they "real art" or a "rip off" of the poster designer's work?

This all seems pretty silly to me. How were the original artists getting "ripped off"? What conceivable effect on their sales did anything Lichtenstein did have? Did anyone ever not purchase a comic book because they'd already purchased a Lichtenstein? Did any of these artists have any intention of selling their work in blown up form on large canvasses? Again, no one who bought a Lichtenstein did so because they had an admiration for the vitality and aesthetic properties of comic book art. They weren't buying the Lichtenstein in lieu of the original works out of some misunderstanding about which was original.

Furthermore, there is frankly a contradiction running through much of the criticisms which is that A) Lichtenstein's work is simply parasitic upon the work of the much greater artists he copied and B) Lichtenstein's work is is a ghastly travesty of this work that utterly betrays its qualities. Both of these things can't really be true; either he's slavishly copying and not adding anything himself OR he's completely changing the work such that it no longer conveys the qualities you admire in the original.
posted by yoink at 3:11 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?

I don't know, the 15th or 16th century maybe?
posted by en forme de poire at 3:33 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?"

Geir? Geir Hongro?
posted by klangklangston at 3:55 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lichtenstein is also one of those artists (like Rothko, Pollock etc etc) that you really have to see in real life... in this case size is (almost) everything
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:59 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can dig that... His overwhelming popularity in poster art (particularly in the 80s) probably robs him of a lot of his power, as then you are seeing a print thing as another - slightly larger, less detailed - print thing and not a HUGE GREAT WALL OF PAINTING.

That said, he's never struck me as someone who uses scale in the manner of Rothko.
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on April 2, 2013


Do you feel the same way about Warhol's soup cans? Are we to shed tears for the original designer of those beautiful, beautiful labels? What about the Mobil Gas sign in Edward Hopper's wonderful painting of a gas station?

Those designers probably got paid well by the companies that hired them, instead of living in semi-squalor like the comic book artists. And they probably got respect as designers, unlike the comic book artists - actual, working artists - who had their blood, sweat and tears treated as 'found art' that could be used for a joke. But honestly I have more respect for the designer of the soup label than for Warhol.

I wish I could find the original article that changed my mind, but comic book artists get ripped off by their bosses and ripped off by the corporations that make money off them. Then their hard work makes somebody else famous for stealing that work.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:33 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The old adage about modern art="I could do that"+"yeah, but you didn't think of it" seems appropriate here. The point of a Lichtenstein comics painting is not "OMG, look at the amazingly refined and subtle technique, truly this is the hand of a master!" any more than that is the point of Andy Warhol's soup cans or soap boxes.

If you take that view, though, I think you have to recognize that what Lichtenstein actually did is no different from what Duchamp did, namely, point out the hollowness of the "real art" distinction and the fact that everyone had so lost their bearings vis-a-vis art that, anymore, all it really did take for something to count as art is an appropriately socially situated person putting something in an appropriate venue.

IOW, you end up more or less where The Whelk started.
posted by kenko at 4:34 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lichtenstein was basically my gateway drug into modern art... I went to the old Tate as a teenager and Whaam! totally blew me away

That is pretty much my exact same experience. As a ten year old sick of being dragged to museum after museum Whaam! blew me away, and totally relationship to art. (And I wasn't even a real fan of comics, although I know that didn't hurt.)

Lichtenstein is also one of those artists (like Rothko, Pollock etc etc) that you really have to see in real life...

This too. A small image in a book or on the computer just isn't the same thing. The size and deliberateness of the art is what makes it art.

But really? Being anti-Lichtenstein in 2013? Art's a conversation, modern and postmodern art doubly so. That conversation is fifty years out of date, taking it out of that context just makes you look stupid. (And Lichtenstein's work had a huge influence in that conversation, I think a lot of art you love wouldn't exist if it wasn't for him, and not because of some sort of anti-Lichtenstein revolt.)

Oh, and shakespeherian? If anything I'd say that flatness is part of what makes his work interesting. Do you think Bedroom at Arles say is mocking Van Gough as banal?
posted by aspo at 6:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But really? Being anti-Lichtenstein in 2013? Art's a conversation, modern and postmodern art doubly so. That conversation is fifty years out of date, taking it out of that context just makes you look stupid.

Sez you. Lichtenstein reinforced the notion that comics were a gutter art form, while being a total Johnny One-Note and hack himself. He wasn't one tenth the artist Jack Kirby or Al Williamson or Will Elder was, and is undeserving of the accolades he receives. I'll heap scorn upon him with my dying breath.
posted by Scoo at 8:22 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really know who most of your comment is addressed to, so I'll assume it isn't addressed to me, since I've seen a number of Lichtensteins in person and am pretty well versed in the contemporary art world such that aphorisms like 'art's a conversation' are a bit stale. I do really enjoy his brushstrokes series, am pretty shruggo on his reproduced masterpieces, and think his comic panel reproductions are pretty awful as I've said.

I don't think Bedroom at Arles is mocking Van Gogh, but I also don't think the comic panel pieces are mocking the original panels and I hope you didn't get that impression because I used the word 'mocked' to mean 'dressed up.' I think that the pieces in question are usually pretty bad compositionally-- with little dynamism, not much tension, the forms often distorted somewhat-- and the contrast to the original panels in that regard suggests that the poor composition is intentional on the part of the piece, which is a thing I guess but it doesn't make me appreciate its aesthetics, and it makes me doubtful about the supposed high/low divide that the piece purports to interrogate.

I don't want to repeat myself here. Art asks questions. Too many of these pieces fudge the answers.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:27 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


But really? Being anti-Lichtenstein in 2013? Art's a conversation, modern and postmodern art doubly so.

Which is why its bankrupt. Too much modern and post-modern art seems to be more about 'starting a conversation' or 'being clever' or 'making a statement' than the actual art. Or it's literally a joke.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:05 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?

en forme de poire: I don't know, the 15th or 16th century maybe?
In the visual arts, we can trace it back about 40,000 years. Only one guy ever had the bright idea of outlining his hand on a cave wall first; these lame-ass copycats were obviously just plagiarizing.

Originality, as a complete creature, is a myth. It doesn't exist. Innovation - building upon what others have done or communicated before - exists. If we believe there's "enough" innovation, we call it an original work - but it isn't. Ever. And the limits on what we'll accept as innovation are actually somewhat narrow. Mondrian would have been burned at the stake for calling his paintings "art" in the 14th century. "Bohemian Rhapsody" wouldn't have worked on 1920s radio shows. Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial would have been scoffed at in the Vietnam era. Etc.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:12 AM on April 3, 2013


Can comics be ART, dad? Only if it’s got BIG DOTS, son!” as Scott McCloud put it.

Lichtenstein (and, by extension, also Duchamp and Warhol) could do what they did, appropriate somebody else's art and repurpose it in a high art context because they were operating in a setting in which such distinctions as high and low art were still valid and the art they appropriated was, at best, made by anonymous craft workers, not artists themselves.

Lichtenstein's work therefore has been made obselete, because we no longer see him repurpose anonymous panels, but appropriate a Russ Heath drawing, which is another game altogether, even if still largely ignored by the fairly conservative high art world.

Because that's the real beef this anti-Lichtenstein exhibition is trying to express, the idea that in 2013, it's still acceptable to omit mention of the original artists Lichtenstein based his work on, to still pretend that the only artistic value of these drawings lay in his appropriation, not in the original art.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:52 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Though oddly enough, I am very much pro-sampling and collage and stuff -- perhaps Lichtenstein doesn't engage in the panels enough?

Lichtenstein didn't sample so much as "uplift", by taking things he did not consider art and creating art from them by remaking them in a high art context.

Contrast that to e.g. the use of sampling in hip-hop, where you have pop artists re-using work from other pop-artists, not to thumb an ironic noise at some sort of art establishment, but because they appreciated the original work.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sez you. Lichtenstein reinforced the notion that comics were a gutter art form, while being a total Johnny One-Note and hack himself. He wasn't one tenth the artist Jack Kirby or Al Williamson or Will Elder was, and is undeserving of the accolades he receives. I'll heap scorn upon him with my dying breath.

It would be simpler to simply admit you don't really understand Art, but that you really enjoy comic book illustrations.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


But you also have to realize the scale of what he just copied and never attributed.

I might be able to take those allegations of cultural appropriation more seriously if they didn't have (c) David Barsalou printed all over them.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:17 AM on April 3, 2013


I saw the Lichtenstein exhibition at Tate Modern and was surprised how much I liked it.

Although they're the most famous, he didn't just spend his whole career copying comics literally. There's a lot of diversity there: original paintings in the blown-up comics style, classical paintings in that style, art-deco style metal sculptures, experiments with glossy textures, the brushstrokes paintings.

Not sure what it means that he's "re-painting them badly". He used a mixture of hand-painting for the images, and stencils and screens to do the dots. He deliberately uses poor "registration" where the colour areas don't quite match the lines marking the edges, but that's trivial to do well at a large scale: it's a deliberate decision, not a lack of skill. There does seem to me to be quite a lot of skill involved in making these paintings.

It's definitely a fun exhibition to visit, there's a lot of impact to what you see.

I do agree that it is a bit insulting to the original artists in the "copies" to not give them named credits. Lichtenstein did alter the compositions somewhat, by cropping, changing lines, moving speech bubbles and so on. But even so, I think the main impact of the composition is down to the original artist.

Lichtenstein himself said "The things that I have apparently parodied I actually admire." I think that comics fans get the impression that Lichtenstein is mocking comics for being kitsch, but I'm not sure that's true. There are other interpretations. On interpretation is that he's celebrating comics and commercial art. Another interpretation is that he's using comics to mock the art world in general and abstract impressionism in particular: "He further mocked the gestural spontaneity of Pollock et al by placing gigantic, painstakingly rendered brushstrokes against a background of those ubiquitous dots".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:18 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lichtenstein didn't sample so much as "uplift", by taking things he did not consider art and creating art from them by remaking them in a high art context.

Replace "he did not consider" with "most people did not consider."

That he managed to see something worthy of artistic exploration amongst comic books and gum wrappers ought not to be condemned.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:19 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually only found out about Russ Heath because of Roy Lichtenstein.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:23 AM on April 3, 2013


Too much modern and post-modern art seems to be more about 'starting a conversation' or 'being clever' or 'making a statement' than the actual art.

You're begging the question here, most of the stuff you're talking about is explicitly pointed at prodding the borders of what's considered 'art.' To say that these works should instead focus on being good art obviates the whole thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:15 AM on April 3, 2013


Those designers probably got paid well by the companies that hired them, instead of living in semi-squalor like the comic book artists. And they probably got respect as designers

The Mobil Pegasus was invented in 1911 and re-styled in the 1930s. And while it's true that the average commercial artist was better paid than than the average comic artist, respect as an artist never figured in to the deal for either. Both were doing a job for hire. That we're even willing to call these illustrators "artists" at all, now, in retrospect, owes a lot to the way the work of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Robert Rauschenberg, and other Pop artists recalibrated our notions of "high" and "low" art.

When did we all agree that remix culture is artistically valid or morally fine?

Aren't you the avid champion of a dozen bands who all sound like Bruce Springsteen?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:05 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It would be simpler to simply admit you don't really understand Art, but that you really enjoy comic book illustrations.

I've been making my living as an artist for over 20 years, thanks for playing, do try again dearie.
posted by Scoo at 10:53 AM on April 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, do you teach a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture?
posted by Scoo at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Media Studies is art?

I'm kidding, kidding.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2013


aspo: "But really? Being anti-Lichtenstein in 2013? Art's a conversation, modern and postmodern art doubly so. That conversation is fifty years out of date, taking it out of that context just makes you look stupid."

Art is a conversation, and we live in the 21st century. Of course we come to different conclusions than we did 50 years ago. I don't see anything wrong with saying "Lichtenstein was ok at the time, but not so good now". There's no need for the art viewing public of today to the conclusions arrived at by a different art viewing public of half a century ago.

Or, more succinctly: Art is a conversation, not a recording of a past conversation.
posted by Bugbread at 5:26 PM on April 3, 2013


Of course we come to different conclusions than we did 50 years ago. I don't see anything wrong with saying "Lichtenstein was ok at the time, but not so good now". There's no need for the art viewing public of today to the conclusions arrived at by a different art viewing public of half a century ago.

Certainly. But "Lichtenstein was o.k at the time, but his early comics based works haven't worn well" is about a million miles from "ooh, that evil Lichtenstein, ripping off great comic artists by stealing their designs." The first is a reasonable proposition, whether or not you agree with it. The other is just a hopelessly anachronistic and muddle-headed misreading of what "conversation" he was taking part in at the time.
posted by yoink at 5:55 PM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Regarding the "rip-off" question, it depends on a lot of things:

1) Your definitions of "rip-off", "homage", etc.
Unlike Andy Warhol or Duchamp, I didn't know the his pieces were blow-ups of other peoples' work until the Internet. If you knew they were appropriations, then calling them rip-offs is one thing. If you believed they were originals, calling them rip-offs is a whole other thing.
2) Whether you are talking about Lichtenstein himself or the whole phenomena of these paintings
Lichtenstein, apparently, admitted the paintings were of works by other artists. However, like I said, I didn't know that they were non-original until the Internet. If one is discussing the works in the context that surrounds them, where they are not conventionally known to be appropriations, then it makes a lot more sense to call them rip-offs. If you are discussing the art in terms of what Lichtenstein himself said, then it makes less sense.

To be honest, I kinda liked Lichtenstein's work pre-Internet (believing them originals), and post-Internet (knowing they were appropriations), and thought at the start of the thread that people were being axe-grindy when they said that in addition to appropriating, he wasn't a good draughtsman. After seeing ArtW's link to the sources, though, I have lost a lot of appreciation. His line-work is far inferior to the originals, not in the "intentionally bad to make a statement" way, but in the "high school kid trying really hard to copy a picture of Wolverine without tracing, but not managing to do it well" sense.
posted by Bugbread at 6:38 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That argument comes perilously close to the old "my five year old kid could do better than that!" chestnut, which is of course irrelevant to an Art (with a capital "A") movement.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:18 PM on April 3, 2013


It is, in a sense, but not in the usual "chestnut" way.

The chestnut is for someone to look at an artist who has intentionally achieved an aesthetic that the viewer perceives as childlike, and say "my kid could do better". That argument is silly - the kid isn't trying to achieve the aesthetic they have. Their art looks childish because they're still young and not very good at achieving the look they want. The artist is using that aesthetic, on the other hand, intentionally, for specific reasons. It's like saying "the artist used paint? my kid could use paint!" Sure, but to what effect?

But here we're talking about an artist who, it seems, is trying really hard to achieve a certain aesthetic, but, it seems from looking at the comparisons, isn't actually good enough to achieve it, and as a result comes out looking like an immature artist, even though that's not what they were trying to do. I think it's fair to criticize that point.
posted by Bugbread at 9:39 PM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


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