Roy Lichtenstein





Press release


Paintings, Sculptures, Collages & Drawings from the 1980s

‘Brushstrokes in a painting convey a sense of grand gesture; but in my hands, the brushstroke becomes a depiction of grand gesture.’ – Roy Lichtenstein

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg is delighted to announce an exhibition of major figurative and abstract paintings, sculptures, collages and drawings by Roy Lichtenstein. Titled The Loaded Brush, the exhibition focuses on Lichtenstein’s innovations of the 1980s, when the artist developed  a new visual language based on the form of the painted stroke, reduced to its simplest expression. Through these works Lichtenstein continued to refine and reinterpret the techniques and palette of his iconic Pop style, while engaging with a new subject matter: the brushstroke­form.

This in­depth exhibition encapsulates the new language of painting that Roy Lichtenstein developed in the 1980s with his innovative use of the brushstroke, which he elaborated to reach new heights. Roy Lichtenstein's work has featured in six group shows in the Salzburg Gallery since the early 1990s and it was an honour to work with him. I am delighted to welcome his family back on the occasion of this solo exhibition, and I thank them and the Castelli Gallery for their assistance.’ – Thaddaeus Ropac

In the 1980s, Lichtenstein made a systematic examination of the formal properties of brushstrokes through works that depicted the gestural strokes of Expressionist painting using a Pop Art aesthetic: flattening the brushstroke­form by rendering it in bold, unmodulated colours with heavy black outlines. In this way, Lichtenstein denies the brushstroke’s status as an index of artistic labour, instead giving it the appearance of a mechanically produced image whose physicality is inseparable from the pictorial plane of the canvas. Through this treatment of the brushtroke-form, Lichtenstein furthered his investigation of perception and the conceptual complexities inherent in the simple lines and flat forms basic to visual representation.

‘After Roy Lichtenstein had abandoned the use of comic strips as models, he studied a variety of styles, including German Expressionism – the distinctive stylistic feature being the clearly visible brushstrokes intended to convey immediacy and spontaneity to the viewer. When Neo­expressionism emerged around 1980, Lichtenstein selected from historical Expressionism motifs which he treated with both irony and homage.’ – Siegfried Gohr, director of the Josef­Haubrich Kunsthalle, Cologne, when it hosted the celebrated Lichtenstein 1970­1980 focus retrospective in 1982. Curated by Jack Cowart, the exhibition included important works by the artist from the Ludwig Collection. Siegfried Gohr is author of the essay in the forthcoming publication on our exhibition The Loaded Brush.

In the same decade, Lichtenstein extended his exploration of the brushstroke­form beyond the two­ dimensional canvas into the realm of sculpture. The artist composed a number of free­standing, three­ dimensional brushstroke pieces, which took the form of medium­sized and monumental public sculptures. By translating the fluidity of paint into a permanent, metallic medium, these sculptures parody the gestural style of Expressionism signified by the brushstroke. Consequently, the brushstroke imagery in these sculptures stands as symbols of individual expressive freedom while simultaneously challenging the conventional fetishisation of the artist’s hand and media.

In using the subject of painting to move beyond painting, Lichtenstein undertook a radical interrogation of his own artistic medium, subject matter, and style. In so doing, the artist likewise raised new questions regarding the spatial relationship between the viewer and the contextualising environment of each piece. Together, the brushstroke sculptures and paintings constitute a significant portion of the artist’s oeuvre and demonstrate some of the guiding interests of Lichtenstein’s ongoing artistic development across a variety of materials.

Image: Roy Lichtenstein, Artemis and Acteon, 1987. Oil, acrylic on canvas, 213 x 305.4 cm (83,86 x 120,24 in) © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein / Bildrecht Wien, 2019.