Lichtenstein, art from the days of ‘daring’

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Mr and Mrs Tyler with Gallery director Ron Radford
Maribeth and Kenneth Tyler with gallery director Ron Radford (centre). 
DESCRIBING the NGA as “almost my second home,” the 81-year-old Kenneth E Tyler  told those present that although the artist Roy Lichtenstein (with whom he had collaborated in many years and who had died in 1997 at the untimely age of 74) had been considered outlandish and daring during the 1960s and 1970s, his work would now be considered “ high art.”

Pointing to the high-level compositions that characterised his encounters between comic book figures, advertising motifs and the most sophisticated printing techniques in the world, Tyler, who was honoured with an order of Australia last year for his services to Australian art, suggested that Lichtenstein’s humorous approach to his art was one of his most endearing features. As well, he had always used the newest print technology to give his work “a cutting edge look.”

Director of the gallery, Ron Radford, praised Mr Tyler and his wife Maribeth for their generosity over a long period. Known for his expertise in printing works by Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Tyler has ensured that the NGA holds the largest collection in the world of prints produced at Tyler’s successive workshops, but he has been a regular visitor to the gallery.

Lichtenstein’s name is synonymous with Pop Art and this exhibition poses the idea that, “as a master of appropriation, he applied a refined strategic approach to his creative energies and constructed his entire body of work following a sophisticated process of image selection, reinterpretation and reissue.”

“Roy Lichtenstein’s work is instantly recognisable. His bright, brash paintings and prints have entered our cultural consciousness as icons of the Pop Art movement,” said Radford, adding that because of this recognition factor, the lavish catalogue had been selling well around the country with young people.

Apparently belying this was the obvious fact that with Lichtenstein top of the pops back in the ’60s and ’70s, his greatest fans are now of a certain age. “Yes,” Radford agreed, indicating to “CityNews” the artwork around him, “there’s a feeling of nostalgia about the whole thing.” But, he was quick to add, just as young people know very well who Andy Warhol was, so they are appreciative of Lichtenstein’s art.

This is the first exhibition dedicated to the art of Lichtenstein at the NGA since 1996, yet, according to the exhibition curator, Jaklyn Babington, “Lichtenstein’s work is timeless and still resonates with today’s visual culture because he developed appropriation as his over-arching conceptual strategy.” She said  the  exhibition of around 100 works, considerably larger than the touring show, has been drawn exclusively from the gallery’s own Lichtenstein holdings, produced by the artist over a 50 year period.

“Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Remix”, at the National Gallery of Australia until January 27.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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