Whaam! Roy Lichtenstein has an unmistakable signature style. Even people who don’t know his name will recognise his comic book inspired works featuring his trademark Ben-Day dots.
This exhibition looks back over his career and features many of the works we know and love. From his explosions that appear to burst forth from the gallery walls to the satirical homage to Hollywood melodrama where a jilted woman would rather drown than call out for help. His work ‘Masterpiece’ has stood the test of time, the humorous take on the pretentious nature and celebrity culture of art is just as relevant today.
The exhibition then takes us into Lichtenstein’s various experimentations and the different directions he took his work in, but many of these lack the viscerality of his more recognisable works. His foray into black and white feels flat while his landscapes aim for an abstract subtlety that doesn’t gel with his dotted style.
It’s at this point that many visitors will be thinking that he was a one trick pony but then some of his latest works offer some redemption. His nudes owe much to Matisse and Picasso but he makes them his own and the Chinese landscapes are meditative – thus ensuring this exhibition finishes on a high point.
What’s great about Lichtenstein’s works is that they have an immediate impact that sucks you in, making all labels and interpretation unnecessary and irrelevant. This is one reason why some people within the art world disliked him, but is also the reason he became so popular.
This exhibition may have some misguided experiments on display but it shows us how Lichtenstein was always willing to try to change his style. Yet the main draw is rightfully his famous scenes of war and romance, they remind us why he’s considered such a tour de force and still remains one of the most imitated artists.
Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is on at Tate Modern until 27 May. Tickets are £14, concessions available.