Los Angeles

Roy Lichtenstein

Ferus Gallery

“Why Brad darling, this painting is a masterpiece! My, soon you’ll have all of New York clamoring for your work.” There is a superb irony in this sentiment when mouthed by the pretty girl to the vapid Troy Donahue type standing next to her in the painting Masterpiece. Any “in” person can chuckle at the “in­ness” of the convolutions of meaning, but as paintings Masterpiece and its companions scarcely exist. They are tokens like the decay-proof smile on the family that used Crest, or like the ecstasy of the girl who has found un­derarm safety. As paintings they are important simply because somebody thought to do them, not because they can exist in their own right. Probably they are intended as comment––some hip form of satire––but if they are out to puncture the vapid flim-flam that engulfs us, they only point, they do not comment. They are like an anonymous Letter-to-the-Editor, a default on the part of the author. The signature on the letter––the commitment through form by the artist––that gives substance to what is said is not there. Lichtenstein has seemingly rearranged nothing, he has stayed reverently close to the origi­nals except for greatly enlarging the scale. He has avoided the risks of trans­formation and he has picked a cripple for a target. The comic page is a ritual art form, it is merely one of the ways we have found to turn absolutely any­thing into entertainment (possibly art is next in line). In the funnies, the world of human happenings is comfortably simplified by flaccid drawing, the only dimension is conveyed by mechanical dots, and life is represented by trium­phant balloons of platitudinous speech rising from the mouths of the charac­ters. It is like shooting fish in a barrel to parody a thing that has so long paro­died itself. If his intent is really more sympathetic and not an act of criticism, then Lichtenstein must fall in with others, like the bad movie buffs, the perennial re-readers of Tom Swift, and other kewpie cultists; a man who finds pleasure and security in being the spe­cialist’s specialist about nothing in particular. In fairness, his range of sub­ject material also includes sponges and a diagram of a Cézanne out of Erle Loran’s book.

Doug McClellan