Between 1961 and 1968, at the height of the Pop art movement, Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) created about 50 large black-and-white drawings. Not only was their imagery, culled from consumer culture, entirely new--baked potatoes, ads for foot medication and BB Guns--but so was their treatment, which drew on the rudimentary character of cheaply printed commercial drawings. Conceived independently from Lichtenstein's paintings, these drawings recast illustrations from newspaper ads and comic books into works of keen visual intensity, curiously echoing the clean-edge aesthetic of 1960s geometric abstraction. "Drawing is the basis of my art," Lichtenstein later affirmed; "It is where my thinking takes place." Published for an exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York, this richly illustrated publication offers 120 color illustrations, plus essays on Lichtenstein's technique and on his little-known 1967 Aspen project, in which the artist transformed a room into a black-and-white cartoon drawing.
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Dervaux, curator of modern and contemporary drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, compiles a detailed study of Roy Lichtenstein's drawings, which were meant to stand on their own, a collection of images of everyday objects, that she calls "the most original contribution of Pop Art to the history of drawing." The stark black-and-whiteness of simple images like a steaming cup of coffee contrast with his colorful paintings. The essays cover a range of theoretical approaches to Lichtenstein's work during this period, when he sought to unravel the process of drawing in an age of mechanical reproduction and commercial imagery. Perhaps the most compelling and relevant essay, by Margaret Holben Ellis and Lindsey Tyne, discusses Lichtenstein's specific tools and processes for imitating offset lithography, giving crucial insight into the development of his deadpan aesthetic. All the contributors touch on the delicate boundary between fine art and commercial reproduction that was central to Lichtenstein's work and especially apparent in his finished drawings. The book creates a solid and sophisticated framework around this group of drawings, while placing it in the context of Lichtenstein's body of work.
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