by Joe Nolan
Along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein helped to usher in a Pop Art revolution in the 1960s. The artist famously borrowed from comic imagery, exaggerating the characteristics of low-resolution industrial printing even as his often single-frame melodramas turned the form's sequential narration on its head.
Ka-Pow! Comics and Cartoons in Contemporary Culture is a new exhibit at Lipscomb University that explores the cultural ubiquity of comic imagery. (Full disclosure: I wrote the introduction for the Ka-Pow! exhibition catalog.) Lichtenstein is represented in the show by a trio of works including two untitled prints borrowed from the collection of the Cheekwood Museum of Art. One is a red-white-and-blue still life of an all-American diner-style meal, including what looks like a BLT and a sweaty glass of Coca-Cola. The other print features a suit-jacket-sleeved arm jutting from the side of the piece to point a finger directly at the viewer. This image includes the exaggerated Ben-Day dots that are the hallmark of the artist's best known work.
Lichtenstein borrowed his images directly from actual comic sources, and it can be difficult to tell where the original works end and Lichtenstein's contributions begin. This amazing Flickr page shows Lichtenstein's images side-by-side with their sources, often supplying bios of the original artists as well. It's a fascinating lens to view Lichtenstein's work through. Be sure to read the panels carefully as well. Lichtenstein sometimes edited or added new text to his works, and it's often his writing that gives the works their heightened sense of drama.