Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 1948 – 1960
August 25, 2022 – January 08, 2023
Lichtenstein has been a major influence on my artistic life journey. I loved his work as a child, and I love it as an adult. It is an iconic representation of American culture.Allison Zuckerman, in her gallery talk within Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 1948 - 1960
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Wendy Hower: Hi everybody my name is Wendy Hower I’m the director of Engagement and Marketing here at the Nasher Museum and I’m standing in for our chief curator Marshall Price he can’t be here and we’re sad that he can’t be here because he’s home sick so we’re recording this especially for Marshall and you can all watch it later, too.
It’s my great pleasure to introduce Allison Zuckerman our speaker this evening. Allison is an artist who has adopted and adapted some of the hallmarks of digital culture and combined them with a more traditional painting technique. She’s born in Harrisburg, PA and is now based in New York and she attended the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating earned her MFA in painting at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, but she began exhibiting even before completing her undergraduate degree and she’s since been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions.
I’m just going to name a few. “Go Figure” with the Pizzuti Collection in Columbus. Ohio and “Punch” curated by Nina Chanel Abney for Deitch projects in New York and the solo presentation “Pirate & Muse” at the Akron Art Museum in Ohio. Then in 2017 Allison was artist in residence at the Rubell Family Museum in Miami and there she had an exhibition “Allison Zuckerman: Stranger in Paradise.”
When we decided to produce here at the Nasher Museum a short documentary about this exhibition “Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making 1948 – 1960” we wanted to include some younger contemporary voices that reflected Lichtenstein’s ethos in one way or another and Allison immediately came to mind because her work like Lichtenstein’s utilizes the immeasurable archive of art history in innovative ways–you can tell Marshall price wrote this beautiful intro.
Unlike Lichtenstein however Alison is part of the millennial generation and has grown up amongst a bombardment of images and a plethora of screens. So this is contributed to a drag-and-drop type of process for Allison resulting in paintings that blur the boundaries of gender and gender roles, our relationship to technology, originality and ownership of images and data privacy and the public sphere. surveillance and visibility and Notions of identity and authenticity in the social media saturated world. Her work astutely reflects aspects of contemporary culture at large. Please join me in welcoming Allison Zuckerman
[All images courtesy Allison Zuckerman]
Allison Zuckerman: Thank you so much, Wendy.
Lichtenstein has been a major influence on my entire artistic life journey. I loved his work as a child and I love it as an adult – it is an iconic representation of American culture. While Europe’s art history spans centuries, in comparison, the US is a young country whose art history is very much linked with consumerism and print media. For example, Europe’s history of the nude can be traced back to ancient Greece, pre dating the common era, while America’s history of the nude is very much linked to the magazine pin up girl. Given this short period of time, Lichtenstein may be considered a foundational building block of US art history. We see Lichtenstein brazenly appropriate art history, the cliché sorrowing teenage girl from comic books, and even the painted brush stroke itself and transport it into the realm of high fine art.
In some ways, I feel like he opened the door for me to approach every day imagery and vernacular as treasure troves waiting to be mined. Of course, I learned about Lichtenstein for the work we all know – his pop art imagery. And admittedly, previous to a studio visit with Marshall Price, and Wendy and Emma Hower, I did not know much about Lichtenstein’s pre-pop work.
However, after the conversation we had and subsequent learning about these paintings, I see their clear influence on Roy and their presence in the work we all know and love. It is so interesting to me, who has been so influenced by Lichtenstein, to be able to understand his discoveries on such an intimate level and thus, link my work to his early influences as well.
While researching Lichtenstein’s early work, I learned that his knack for appropriation did not begin in 1961, the year he created his iconic “Look Mickey” painting, but was actually the backbone of his artistic practice starting in the 1940s, while a student at Ohio State University. Moving from New York to the midwest opened Roy’s eyes to American folk lore, Native American mythology, and US military history. Using this imagery as inspiration, and merging it with his love of Picasso, Miro, and Paul Klee – he was able to create the paintings we see around us now.
(BELOW) In 2017, I was invited to be the artist in residence at the Rubell Museum in Miami Florida. Like Roy, leaving New York and spending time in an American city that was distinct, greatly influenced me. The painting you see here references impressionism, Italian renaissance, modernism, the every day imagery of emojis, and of course Roy himself. While spending time in Miami, my color palette changed, and new imagery found its way into the canvases. The room that the woman is situated in comes from Roy, as does the fruit bowl sitting on the window ledge. Before learning of Roy’s history, I knew he was influential on me and I revered the imagery he created. But while learning about his development, I realized that his technique of hybridizing imagery and blending centuries of art history onto one plane was territory that I also found myself invested within.
(BELOW) As Roy later took from pin-ups and translated them into ben day dot imagery, here, I decided to take from Roy’s inspiration of the pin-up herself, using the waist and legs to create this figure. Her hand finds it roots in a 1960s comic book, an homage to Roy and his selection of printed imagery. The falling water pitcher is directly from a Roy painting and the two inflatable parrots speak to the value that the every day, in this case, a party city decoration, can have in art. The top left panel is an adobe stock image, while her hair comes from a google search of wavy blonde hair. To me, this painting plays with the American dream of escapism, living on a beach, the current fascination with makeup techniques, and of course, art history. In Roy’s case, American escapism was a fascination with the West, which he critiqued through parody. The running figure in the background echoes Roy’s depictions of a loose and expressive figure seen throughout the gallery.
(BELOW) Speaking to Milton Esterow, Lichtenstein admitted that he had searched for something deliberately banal “to make imagery that was as dumb as possible.” Many of the figures around this room have simplified smiles and eyes. In this installation, I wanted to carry this mood forward by making this sculpture, with the inflatable deer decoy, have a similar kind of affect, and even imbue the roller skates with their own human and absurd characteristics. Like Roy, it was important to me to maintain the art historical core, but I also wanted to dance around it with visual jokes and found imagery.
(BELOW) For reference, this is a photo of my sister and I in front of one of the paintings I made during the residency. Roy elevated the 2 by 2 inch comic strip cell into museum sized canvases, and so I felt motivated by his achievements to take this scale shift as far as I could go.
(BELOW) Roy’s drawings and sketches were crucial to his practice. It is amazing to see how his planning and mark making are so pronounced within the works here. I realized the language of drawing was imagery too, and so, I began to incorporate drawing within my paintings. The background of this painting features a pin-up nude from Roy, in one of his rooms. I actually scanned the catalogue that featured this painting, which was a two page spread, and delighted in the crease that was between the two pages and transferred to my canvas. Flattening that crease onto the canvas felt like a pop art decision, one that celebrated the nature of print media. This woman rests on her daybed, lavishing in a room that was made by Roy – in fact, this entire painting was made possible by him. The hyper link imagery of the squares is in direct conversation with Roy’s invention and elevation of the ben day dot as fine art mark making. This painting is also significant to me because of the pixelation throughout. Roy took the ben day dot from newspapers and magazines and turned it into his primary mode of mark making. The pixel, found in all of our digital screens, is the ben day dot of today. Every image we see on a phone or monitor can be reduced to a square.
(BELOW) This portrait utilizes the framing device seen in a comic book strip, except it has been rendered in free hand with expression. Here, Roy’s paint brush bucket has been translated from ben day dots into crystal rhinestones – each dot is an actual crystal. A strand of pearls from one of his still lifes becomes her necklace. And music, which was so important to Roy and his early development, especially jazz, is emphasized here with ascending music notes.
(BELOW) I wanted to take the pristine quality of later Roy paintings and combine it with loose interpretations of the human form. The hands, chest, hair and foreground of grass, in particular their heavy use of line and solid color fill, feels very close to Roy’s “Motion Picture Projector” and “Shaper Feed Mechanism” works on paper in the gallery. She rests upon a column made by Roy, symbolizing her loving reliance on the pillars of art history.
(BELOW) This painting uses the primary colors seen in many of these Untitled paintings – bold reds, blues, yellows, as well as strong blocking, to create a scene of focused hysteria. She lives in a Roy Lichtenstein room, behind her, hangs a portrait from one of Roy’s contemporaries, Tom Wesselmann. One of her hands comes from Disney while another uses loose and expressive drawing to hold her sheet music.
(BELOW) In this painting, “Girl with a hoop earring”, I wanted to incorporate the genius interpretation of the brush stroke that Roy made in a playful and sly response to abstract expressionism. This brushstroke parodied the expression of ideas through the artist’s hand – so central to Abstract Expressionism. These brushstrokes were made with calculation and mechanical means, the complete antithesis to the romantic ideas attached to the artist’s gesture and stroke. The painting that I chose to speak in front of “Untitled” made in 1959 starts to get close to the point in time in which Roy began to utilize comic book imagery. These paintings, to me, look like the prototype to his comic book interpretation of the brush stroke. They are smooth, fluid and elegant. The striations of color look just like the graphic interpretation he is so well known for.
(BELOW) This past summer, I was given a very compelling prompt- to respond to Roy Lichtenstein’s final and incomplete body of work, made in 1997, a series focused on his idea of an “obliterating brushstroke”. In his series, he wanted this brush stroke to wash over the surface of the image to deface or efface it. I was shown images of these works by Ross Kramer Gallery and asked to create work that built upon this idea. It was one of the most humbling and exciting opportunities that I’ve ever been able to embark on – to pick up where Lichtenstein left off to create a two person show. Here, the calculated brush strokes, so painstakingly rendered are in sharp contrast to the loose painting style of this woman’s blouse, washy sky, and aqua table in the foreground. She points to a large tea kettle, which was part of the painting I was using as inspiration.
(BELOW) When I arrived at the gallery to install the show, I noticed, without any prior knowledge of the dimensions of the Roy paintings that I had been responding to, that the tea kettles were the same size in both of our paintings. I wanted the energy and movement of his painting to flow into mine, creating an upward and cyclical motion of color, joy and lightness. The brush strokes in this painting by Roy, painted free hand, are completely reminiscent of the painting we stand before now.
(BELOW) In this painting, “Elvin Queen” I responded to the painting seen on the left. One of my favorite moments was incorporating the light switch that is in Roy’s painting within the background of my portrait – the background is sourced from a Van Gogh painting and I loved the idea of giving it some electricity from the future. I studied Roy’s open box and and the cup of coffee on the saucer, bringing it into the foreground of this painting. His erasure of the left quarter of the painting also channels this painting, blocking out an entire section, using erasure as an additive moment. This idea of Roy working in a full circle, coming back to his origins in the last months of his artistic journey, gives a simultaneous sense of closure and openness. Between 1948 to 1960, he was wrestling with recognizable imagery, painting it in, taking it out, channeling abstract expressionism and within this series, he uses his life’s work and finds himself working to obliterate his own imagery. It is as if he recognized the deep mythology he spent his life creating and felt the need to once again, go in the complete opposite direction. As a young artist, he journeyed from loose expressionism to working with precise control and in his last days, he took the control he spent his life perfecting and collided it with loose lyricism and chance.
(BELOW) As Roy looked to Picasso, I too wanted to use a Neo-Classical figure from Picasso and combine it with pop for the show. The barely legible text at the top reads “The melody haunts my reverie” – a line of text from a Roy pop painting, signifying his presence within my work.
(BELOW) This was the 4th painting included in the show with Roy. I wanted the brushstrokes to be characters here. I wanted these strokes to have a playful personality, splashing into the frame, splattering onto the figure, peeking in to say hello. The Brush stroke reveals itself while covering the imagery behind it.
(BELOW) This last image is a picture I took in my studio a few days ago. This work is currently en route to a gallery in Paris and will be shown during Art Basel week. I can’t help but always channel Roy in my work and celebrate his innovation and discoveries. Whether it’s his distinct iconography or his spirit of irreverence, satire, and appropriation, I love the idea of being a part of the Pop Art lineage. Pop is so much more than a reflection of the every day and consumerist culture – to create pop, one must deeply appreciate art history, story telling, and the power of mark making. Roy Lichtenstein has been such an inspiring and guiding figure for me, he is Pop and he is Art History, and it has been an incredible honor to be able to speak about him, my love of his work, and his influence on my life. Thank you.
It’s so interesting to me, who has been so influenced by Lichtenstein, to be able to understand his discoveries on such an intimate level, and thus link my work to his early influences as well.Allison Zuckerman
Allison is an artist who has adopted and adapted some of the hallmarks of digital culture and combined them with a more traditional painting technique.
Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and now based in New York, Allison attended the University of Pennsylvania and after graduating, received her MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
She began exhibiting before even finishing her undergraduate degree and her work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and featured in many group shows. These include, just to name a few, Go Figure, Pizzuti Collection, Columbus, OH; Punch, curated by Nina Chanel Abney at Deitch Projects, NY; and the solo presentation Pirate and Muse, at the Akron Art Museum, Ohio
In 2017 Allison was artist in residence at the Rubell Family Museum, Miami, resulting in her exhibition, Allison Zuckerman: Stranger in Paradise.
When we decided to produce a short documentary on the current exhibition, Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 1948-1960, we wanted to include some younger, contemporary voices that reflected Lichtenstein’s ethos in one way or another.
Allison immediate sprang to mind as her work, like Lichtenstein’s, utilizes the immeasurable archive of art history in innovative ways.
Unlike Lichtenstein, however, Allison, as part of the millennial generation, has grown up amongst a bombardment of images and a plethora of screens.
This has contributed to a “drag and drop” type of process for her, resulting in paintings that blur the boundaries of gender and gender roles, our relationship to technology, originality and ownership of images and data, privacy and the public sphere, surveillance and visibility, and notions of identity and authenticity in a social media-saturated world.
Her work astutely reflects aspects of contemporary culture at large.
— Marshall N. Price, Chief Curator and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Before learning of Roy’s history, I knew he was influential on me and I revered the imagery he created. But while learning about his development, I realized that his technique of hybridizing imagery and blending centuries of art history onto one plane was territory that I also found myself within.Allison Zuckerman
Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 1948 – 1960 is a 12-minute mini documentary video about the first major...
by Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Colby College Museum of Art Duration 12m, 3s Published