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Lichtenstein Brushstroke Exhibited

November 6, 2001

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NEW YORK (AP) _ A serene, abstract landscape with a single bonsai tree peering out from one corner is displayed opposite a busy canvas of frantic squiggles and crisscrosses melded with thicker lines in a frenzy of bold colors.

The two paintings by Roy Lichtenstein could not appear to be more different, yet both manipulate a central theme used throughout his career _ the brushstroke.

The first major survey of Lichtenstein’s work since his death in 1997, ``Brushstrokes: Four Decades,″ at the Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery, focuses on the brushstroke technique in his paintings, drawings and sculptures.

For those who think of Lichtenstein primarily as a Pop artist whose cartoon images have become icons of the Pop Art movement, the exhibit offers an overview of his diverse body of work which borrows from many schools of art.

Lichtenstein produced approximately 4,500 works during his lifetime, the earliest dating from about 1940. He frequently revisited his own earlier paintings as well other renowned works when developing new images.

``Landscape in Fog,″ part of his Chinese landscape series painted in 1996, combines the Benday dots found in many of his earlier cartoon images with a breezy, gray brushstroke spanning the center of the canvas. Here the dots _ much in the style of the French pointillists _ lend to a minimalist landscape, a broad departure from the brazen dots in his garish Pop Art images.

``I love the way that he deals with abstraction and the mood of tranquility,″ Lucy Mitchell-Innes said of the oil and magna landscape.

Hanging on a wall across from the landscape is ``Variation 7,″ an oil painting from 1959 that experiments with abstract expressionism and introduces the bold red, blue and yellow brushstrokes that are prominent throughout Lichtenstein’s career.

``It was more about emotion and feeling the hand of the artist,″ associate director Adrian Turner said of the early work. ``With Pop Art, it became more about bringing the art back to the people.″

The show, which opened Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 12, is composed of some 40 works, including a few from the Roy Lichtenstein Estate and Foundation which are on public display for the first time. (A painting from Lichtenstein’s ``Enablature″ series that had been in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center was among the works lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.)

The first painting visitors see when they enter the gallery combines mostly black brushstrokes with a bright yellow cartoon brushstroke. ``It’s the one people least recognize,″ Turner said.

The same yellow brushstroke outlined with black lines forms the blonde tresses on ``Drowning Muse.″ The 1986 oil and magna painting harks back to Lichtenstein’s 1963 Pop Art work, ``Drowning Girl,″ which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art.

Light blue and pale pink brushstrokes form a landscape as maroon and mauve and brushstrokes frame the girl’s face. Benday dots and a variety of brushstrokes complete the background and the face resting on the girl’s arm.

The exhibit shows how Lichtenstein first made drawings and then translated them onto larger canvases, and how some sculptures evolved into paintings while other paintings grew into sculptures.

Drawings of the paintings demonstrate the power of the brushstroke when the lines are magnified. They also reveal the meticulous manner in which Lichtenstein converted every line into a larger stroke.

The yellow cartoon brushstroke is again used to create blonde hair in ``Brushstroke Head II,″ a painted and patinated bronze sculpture from 1987. The eyes and mouth are simple cartoon strokes on a swirl of red Benday dots. The strokes are contrived, but their loose form inspires a sense of movement that is more fluid than on canvas.

During the gallery show, the 32-foot-high sculpture ``Brushstroke″ is being displayed at the Seagram Building Plaza at 375 Park Ave. It is the first public exhibition from a series of Lichtenstein’s large-scale sculptures created in 1996.

The gallery at 1018 Madison Ave. is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.


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