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Roy Lichtenstein Prints 1956-97 at AMOA


I was ready to dismiss this show. It's very easy to dismiss Roy Lichtenstein. His work is so ingrained in contemporary popular visual
idioms as a quick signifier of "artsiness" that it is almost impossible
to look at his work without a certain degree of superciliousness. It
certainly doesn't help that AMOA picked one of his most iconic prints, Crying Girl (1963), as the main image for Roy Lichtenstein Prints 1956-97.

Despite my bad attitude going in, I can't help but admit it: the show
is fantastic. It's almost overwhelmingly good. Organized by the Museum
of Art at Washington State University
in consultation with the Jordan
Schnitzer Family Foundation
, Prints 1956-97
collects 30 years of the artist's artistic output and organizes it
thematically (from what I could tell) which results in sometimes
creating disorienting chronological juxtapositions but in the end
succeeds in presenting Lichtenstein's wandering interests as a
majestically cohesive body of work.

You could say that artists as successful as Lichtenstein who worked in
a Pop Art vein became, in a way, victims of their own success. To put
it differently, it's difficult to maintain street cred when your style
begets a Photoshop filter (I predict Chuck
will soon join the ranks of artist-based Photoshop filters) or a Photo
Booth effect

This is why Prints 1957-97 is
so fucking good. We need shows like this one to remedy this sort of
thinking. Lichtenstein's work in person is a completely different
beast than a reproduction of it (as goes with all art). The scale is
humbling, the emotional depth is irrefutable, the mastery of
composition (and otherwise) incontestable.

My personal favorites were the large prints and wallpaper that make up
his Interiors series. Made in the early 90s, the perfectly composed
prints of living rooms (and with their Mid-Century Modern aesthetics,
perfectly anachronistic by that time) chillingly expose the emptiness
of the quest for interior design perfection and furniture materialism, a lesson the yuppies snatching up Austin's downtown lofts and the developers who build them should pay attention to.

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