Voici Mon Secret

 

  Most will instantly recognize in the image above the style of Roy Lichtenstein.  It is indeed one of his paintings and is representative of what is probably the most widely familiar part of his career – apparent reproductions of comic book panels complete with thought balloons and Ben-Day dots.

  Icons of 60’s pop culture, they epitomized “cool”.  In an essay* Martin Filler tells us that Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were “the foremost exemplars of Cool among their generation of American visual artists…that quality of being simultaneously with-it and disengaged, in control but nonchalant, knowing but ironically self-aware, and above all inscrutably undemonstrative.”  Like Steve McQueen and Miles Davis.

  I had only a vague awareness of Lichtenstein’s oeuvre beyond those executed during the course of that decade and thus found much of interest in a retrospective up now at Chicago’s Art Institute.  Though there are elements common through much of the work, there’s also was an evolution I’d not expected.  Filler tells us that Lichtenstein was “Acutely concerned about repeating himself…”

  Below you see a photo of one of his “Landscapes in the Chinese Style” which was his last series, having been painted in the late nineties.  Healthy and active, Lichtenstein expected to live to 100, but died in 1997 at seventy-three of an infection he contracted while in a hospital with pneumonia. 

  Though greatly taken by traditional Chinese painting and the sense of nature conveyed therein, he said that “I’m not seriously doing a kind of Zen-like salute to the beauty of nature…”, and though Filler and others suspect that the artist “intended to capitalize on the increasing presence of high-rolling Chinese collectors”, it is difficult – for me at least – to not feel my spirits lift while looking at Lichtenstein’s last works.

  Reminds me (for some reason – the following bit being not perfectly apropos) of something from St Exupery’s Petit PrinceThe Little Prince:  “Voici mon secret.  Il est tres simple.  On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.  L’essential est invisible pour les yeux”.  “Here is my secret.  It is very simple.  One can only see well with the heart.  What’s essential is invisible to the eyes”.

 

*New York Review of Books June 21, 2012

**Gagosian press release March 2012

   

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