This Week's Lichtenstein #8

In (1962)


Chris Rywalt said...

Boo on Lichtenstein. Fraud and thief.

layne said...

Somewhat glib, imo. Eddie Cambell discussed Lichtenstein on his blog recently, you may find it interesting.

Chris Rywalt said...

I don't find it glib at all. I'm annoyed at apologists for Lichtenstein.

I think Campbell's quoting of R.G. Collingwood is good; he's got a point. I think some copying and collaging and satirizing and plagiarism is good for the arts. But I also think there's a limit after which you're just profiting from someone else's hard work, and Roy went way past it.

Tom Sutpen said...

But to the best of my knowledge, Lichtenstein never claimed that these images (the panels lifted from Comics and the like; which do not represent the sum total of his art, I'll point out) originated with him.

I suppose what I don't understand from what you're saying here is whether your indictment is limited specifically to him, or you're placing the entire Pop Art movement . . . every one of whose principal figures, in one way or another, utilized similar means . . . under the same umbrella of scorn. If he's to be condemned then they all are.

I should also mention that the page you linked to, which places the original pieces alongside Lichtenstein's renditions, does in fact support my conclusion that Lichtenstein's re-castings of these panels bear enough distinction from the originals as to place them, for me safely outside the realm of thoughtless reproduction. Once you ask yourself why, within a certain painting, he left out this element out or chose to emphasize a certain color or add a shadow where there was none before, it becomes clear that a deliberate choice has been made.

I just find it hard to impute to Lichtenstein, in these works, the kind of cynical piggy-backing you're implying. Piggy-backing it may be (to a degree), but it's not cynical.

Chris Rywalt said...

I feel certain I've had this discussion before, but I can't remember where just now.

My problem with Lichtenstein -- and a lot of Pop, actually -- is that Roy copied so much and made so much thereby. I know the comic panels are not his entire body of work, but I think it's clear that without the comic panels, no one would know who Roy Lichtenstein was. They were his breakthrough to art stardom and the foundation of the rest of his career, his wealth, and his influence.

What I object to is the wholesale lifting of the work of comic book craftsmen. These men -- the pencillers, inkers, colorists and letterers -- worked very hard and in return they received almost nothing. They were barely paid for their work; they were given no respect, no rights to their work once created, and no benefits of any kind. They were craftsmen whose originals were discarded once used for printing; publishers even assigned people to cut the artwork into four pieces so it'd fit into the wastebaskets.

That none of these craftsmen considered their work "art" is beside the point; they worked hard and had pride in their work, even if no one else did. These were men who died at their drawing boards, as the saying goes. Magazine publishers made fortunes on their backs.

Then Roy Lichtenstein comes along and copies their work. Not exactly, but let's ask what he added: The idea of enlarging "disposable" images to large size; some minor color and composition changes (and, in my opinion, his changes are almost always for the worse, showing his lack of understanding of the symbols, iconography, and imagery he was stealing). For that work Roy was paid in the millions -- in fact, he (and now his estate) made enough money that they can now prevent anyone from doing to Lichtenstein's work what he did to those comics craftsmen (the Lichtenstein Website is very clear on their copyrights).

Now, maybe Roy didn't start off cynically. Maybe he did a couple for fun. But surely as he saw the reactions of studio visitors to his new work, and began to see the earning potential of his theft; surely he became more serious and cynical about the enterprise. If he hadn't been cynical, he'd have sent his forebears royalty checks.

My other problem with Lichtenstein is the problem I have whenever fine artists stray into comic book territory, which is lack of craft. Roy simply wasn't a very good letterer or draftsman.

Lichtenstein might as well have spray-painted his name over the doors of St. John the Divine and sold it as his own.

Chris Rywalt said...

By the way, Tom, I want to say something positive: I love this site, and I keep up with your Dreams blog, also. I like what you're doing here and it pains me that you're so hung up on the progress (or lack of it) on your book.

Just so you don't think all I do is complain.

Vanwall said...

I'm not a big fan of egregious lifting in any media, visual or sound. It makes it tough to look or listen to a lot of pop cultural creations without wincing a bit.

Eva said...

I can't side one way or the other with the rip-off idea, if he did it or not. But I still love Lichtenstein.