I went to see Lichtenstein at the Tate with some friends last weekend. I had no real preconceptions because the only art I knew of his are the pop art graphic novel type pieces which I had seen in movies. I think what I enjoy about the concept of a retrospective exhibition (besides really liking the word) is that you can see how the artist changed and how their pieces influenced each other and developed.
One of my favourite rooms was Lichtenstein’s reinterpretation of some artists/artistic works. Laocoon (above) was perhaps my favourite piece in the exhibition. Possibly because I have seen the original statue in the Vatican and could see how Lichtenstein has created something that was instantly recognisable to me but also totally different. The series of Chinese landscapes again took a well established art form and reinterpreted them in a way which was recognisable but stamped with his own personal style.
Both of these elements, that of progression and reinterpretation, are really interesting to me as a photographer.
I think as an artist (whether you use paint or light) there is this idea of developing a signature style. Certainly there are photographers that you would be able to see one of their photographs and know it was there’s (Ansel Adams coming instantly to mind) and looking at Lichtenstein’s work there is certainly this factor. But at the same time Lichtenstein’s art has different phases as he has grown older and at times he revisits previous periods and even reinterprets his own art (the two brush stroke series for instance). Although there are some elements which remain consistent (repetitive dot or rectangle patterns, colours which emerge again and again) there are also changes and new interests which the artist has decided to pursue. I was inspired to be less harsh on myself for not quite having my ‘look’ yet and allowing this to be a thing which alters over time.
Also rather than learning and growing through “copying or stealing” it is better to try and translate something with your personal vision.
There is still a few months before it closes and I would recommend you go if you are in London.