Los Angeles

Roy Lichtenstein

Ferus Gallery

This show of recent works holds together well. The current figures, as before, are pressed to the surface, and in Sketch for World’s Fair Girl and Tension they burst forth and can barely be con­tained. This close-up cropping, locked within the story-board frame, relates not only to its comic-book sources, but as well to the cinema close-up. A char­acteristic move into whatever illusion of compressed space does exist takes place across the complication of a hand, a clutch of bent fingers, often slightly out of scale, contrasting with the field of the face and complementing the waves of hair. The drawing quality has not altered appreciably. He seems to have assimilated this heavily stylized line, to be able to design within its terms, and less ready to accept a source’s particularizing distortions. The linear patterns of interior breakups ap­pear more clearly volumetric within the style’s conventions. For it is the accept­able, conventionalized signs of a popu­lar and rigid caricaturing style which Lichtenstein presents, questioning our ability to read (and read beyond) such an image. Proof that the canvases require a careful but distant reading in terms of basic (primary, primitive) con­ventions such as relative size and over­lap, are the wildly inconsistent fluctua­tions of shapes which occur when ex­amining an isolated section. Despite the grand scale, he constructs with a concentration on subdivided layers or part-to-part relationships.

The quality of the pure, solid colors arranged about the periphery has not changed, but the greatest control of his severely limited means occurs in the use of the screened dots. The pre­vious method is illustrated in the por­celain enamel on metal Crying Girl: the dots are tiny and spread in a thin field resembling a textural interference. The newest mode, increasing the dot size (to a quarter inch), or by using two layers of dots, along with an even application of paint, provides the ef­fect of a uniform color film, weighted now and competing with the line as large areas of colored tones uniting the surface.

Suspicions of Seurat and Art Nou­veau references are more strongly con­firmed. The Colored Sunset and his abstract White Cloud are suddenly and surprisingly optical—red and blue dots combine to purple, create large patterned after images, and open up spatially—while billowing and sailing clouds build a contorting band across the center. These landscapes are as good as anything he has done, and suggest a new direction. Rather like the predicament, of the man holding the tiger’s tail, Lichtenstein’s strength and peril is his grip on his material. Only now does he seem to have mastered his sources, and yet the com­mittee art of the manufactured metal panel and the optics of non-objective imagery suggest excellent departures.

––Fidel A. Danieli