Head

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    The Mayor Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    West Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art, April 1997 (on extended loan)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 1986, Roy Lichtenstein’s monumental work Head represents the sum of a prodigious career dedicated to interrogating the history of painting whilst melding the aesthetic tendencies of popular culture and fine art. The present work belongs to an important group of abstract portraits from the same year, each composed through the layering of seemingly conflicting painterly styles. Here Lichtenstein abolishes the divisions between abstraction and representation that underpinned critical discussions surrounding the medium within the 20th century. The artist provides a thorough history of mark-making, but also a succinct summary of the vast scope of art historical references that he has mastered within his own career. When the work was executed the artist had spent almost three decades re-imagining a plethora of artistic styles through the lens of his bold, comic-book aesthetic. Considering Futurist and Art Deco aesthetics respectively, Horse and Rider, 1976, and Modern Painting, 1967 are two examples that recall artistic movements, both coming from the prestigious Fiterman Collection that has housed the present work for the past three decades. Head re-orientates Lichtenstein’s long-standing “hands-off” engagement with Abstract Expressionism and takes a newly tactile appraisal of the significance of the brushstroke.

    Lichtenstein will be forever immortalised within the annals of art history for his re-appropriation of comic book imagery and the aesthetics of industrial printing through the medium of paint. In the mid 1960s Lichtenstein would turn his unique Pop eye to focus on the very foundations of painting and the act of mark making itself in his Brushstroke series. In Little Big Painting, 1965, in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York he attentively illustrates the physical qualities of brushstrokes at an exaggerated scale. Typical to the playfully sardonic edge that defined Pop Art, the motif was actually taken from a printed source: the comic book story entitled The Painting, printed in Strange Suspense Stories in October 1964. In this seemingly irreverent act – copying from widely available imagery rather than painting from life or emotion – Lichtenstein wittily debunked the spiritual aura of the brushstroke as enshrined by his Abstract Expressionist forebears who had dominated the New York art scene prior to his arrival. As the artist surmised: “it’s taking something that originally was supposed to mean immediacy and I’m tediously drawing something that looks like a brushstroke… I want it to look as though it were painstaking. It’s a picture of a picture and it’s a misconstrued picture of a picture” (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff, Roy Lichtenstein, New Haven & London, 2012, p. 50) Painted two decades later, in Head Lichtenstein makes a far more explicit reference to Abstract Expressionist gestures. Displaying some of the loosest brushwork within his oeuvre, at the margins of the frame and as a central component of the face motif, Lichtenstein provides a visceral account of raw paint being drawn across the canvas with expressive abandon. At the same time, these gestures are immediately parodied by contrastingly illustrative versions of themselves. A set of clearly delineated block-colour forms to the right are reminiscent of the Brushstroke paintings. Finally, further allusions to the foundation of Pop Art are made through the background presence of the exaggerated Ben-Day dot motif; their mechanical regularity and allusions to commercial printing act as a patterned riposte to the sweeping swathes of unblended pigment.

    1983 was also the year that Lichtenstein designed his important poster Against Apartheid to protest the ongoing human rights violations in South Africa. In this iconic image, Lichtenstein makes different styles of brushstroke his subject. Images of painted lines in his characteristic cartoon style harmonise with traces of raw paint drawn over the image surface to create an exuberant symphony where each component supports the aesthetic weight of the other – a metaphor for the peaceful societal coexistence. In Head we are drawn into the same game of meta-referencing. Lichtenstein recalls his long-standing relationship with the mediated image to confuse the relationship between what is ‘original’ and what is copied. Whilst the basis of the right hand side seems grounded in simplified forms reminiscent of the 60s Brushstroke paintings, their cartoon illusionism is disrupted by luscious, fleshy pinks that recall the oversized mark-making of Willem de Kooning. The methods of signification are further challenged by the face motif itself. Lips and eyes appear to be conjured in a mixture of styles; they represent human facial features but can equally be read purely as brush strokes.

    From early on in his career Lichtenstein was quick to acknowledge his work in relation to Abstract Expressionism’s overriding tendency towards “ground-directedness” where “You put something down, react to it, put something else down, and the painting itself becomes a symbol of this.” (Roy Lichtenstein in What is Pop Art? Interviews with eight painters, G. R. Swenson, Art News 67, November 1963, pp. 25-27) But whilst Lichtenstein would admit that the referential propensities of Pop Art offered a more “object directed” approach, he was also quick to highlight the union between his work and the abstractions of the New York school: “There is humor here. The work is still ground-directed; the fact that it’s an eyebrow or an almost direct copy of something is unimportant. The ground-directedness is in the painter’s mind and not immediately apparent in the painting.” (Roy Lichtenstein, Ibid.) In the present work the iconic Ben-Day dots are employed as a decorative pattern rather than a component of a visual narrative. Head thus expresses Lichtenstein’s fundamental belief that, despite the elements of popular culture it might refer to, his art is equally a formal exercise that examines the abstract components of a composition through the application of paint to canvas. As noted by his wife Dorothy Lichtenstein, “Roy viewed all of his paintings as abstract lines and marks on canvas, no matter what they looked like.” (Dorothy Lichtenstein in exhibition catalogue, Lichtenstein: Modern Painting by Dave Hickey, New York: Richard Gray Gallery, 2010, p. 5) Referring obliquely to the naive abstract portraits of Picasso, Lichtenstein constructs Head in two distinct halves, dissected vertically: a freehanded vertical swatch of brown pigment is contrasted with the mechanically regulated pattern of the Ben-Day dots. Successfully bringing together free wielding artistic abstraction with the aesthetics of commercial printing, in Head Lichtenstein proves that not only is it possible for these styles to harmoniously coexist, but they can also work together to create a new vision of humanity.

  • Catalogue Essay

    羅伊·李奇登斯坦(Roy Lichtenstein)於1986年繪製的偉大作品《頭》(Head),代表了他在致力於審視繪畫史的過程中,融合了流行文化和藝術這兩者的審美傾向的龐大之專業藝術生涯的歸總。這件作品來自一組創作於同一年的重要抽象肖像畫,其中每一件都以看似相互矛盾的繪畫風格層疊而構成。在這裡,李奇登斯坦破除了抽象和支撐著20世紀圍繞著該媒介的所有批判性討論的再現之間的分離。藝術家展示了一個全面的圖像符號史,同時也是對他自己的創作生涯中所掌握的大量藝術史參考資料的簡潔總結。在創作這件作品時,藝術家已經花了將近三十年的時間,通過大膽的漫畫式美學視角重新築構了其主要的藝術風格。分別以未來主義( Futurist)和裝飾風藝術(Art Deco)美學為例,1976年的《馬與騎手》(Horse and Rider)和1967年的《現代繪畫》(Modern Painting)分別指涉了兩個藝術運動,這兩件作品均來自著名的菲特曼收藏,而本次的拍品在過去三十年裡也一直為該收藏所有。《頭》重新定位了李奇登斯坦長期以來與抽象表現主義繪畫的「放手」式的參與,並對筆觸的重要性進行了新的觸覺評估。

    李奇登斯坦以他對漫畫圖像的重新挪用,及他將工業印刷美學在繪畫中的運用而在藝術史上留名。在1960年代中期,李奇登斯坦在他的《筆觸》系列中將他的「波普」視角轉向對繪畫的基礎和形狀符號繪畫行為本身的關注。在紐約惠特尼美國藝術博物館(the Whitney Museum of American Art)收藏的創作於1965年的《小小的大畫》(Little Big Painting)中,他以誇張的尺度專注地展示了筆觸的物理特質。有著定義波普藝術的典型詼諧諷刺特質,作品的主題取自一件印刷品:來自印刷於1964年10月的《奇異懸疑故事》( Strange Suspense Stories )中的一個名為《繪畫》的漫畫故事。在這種看似不恭的行為中 - 從大眾圖像中復製而不是從生活或情感中汲取靈感 - 李奇登斯坦巧妙地諷刺了那些在他之前佔據著紐約藝術界主導地位的抽象表現主義藝術家們;所被人追捧的筆觸精神之光環。正如藝術家所猜測的那樣:「採取原本應該意味著即時性的東西,而我卻很乏味地在那畫一些看起來像筆觸的東西......我希望它看起來好像很辛苦。這是根據一張圖片所作的繪畫,這是對一張圖片曲解後的繪畫」(羅伊·李奇登斯坦,引自詹姆斯·蘭多(James Rondeau)和西娜·瓦格斯塔夫(Sheena Wagstaff),《羅伊·李奇登斯坦》,紐黑文和倫敦,2012年,第50頁)。二十年後,李奇登斯坦在《頭像》這件作品中對抽象表現主義風格做出了更明確的指涉。 這件作品中有著藝術家畢生創作中最為寬鬆的一些筆觸,在畫框的邊緣和作為面部圖案的中心組成部分,李奇登斯坦用顏料以充滿表現性的張力,進行本能的描繪。同時,這些筆勢又立即被與它們有著對比表現的自身版本所效仿。右側的一組清晰勾勒的色塊形狀讓人立即想到藝術家的《筆觸》繪畫。最後,通過誇張的「班戴點」(Ben-Day dot)背景之圖案,進一步影射了波普藝術的基礎;它們的機械規律性和對商業印刷的暗示則充當了對大片未混合顏料所作出的圖案化反駁。

    1983年也是李奇登斯坦為抗議南非持續存在的侵犯人權行為而設計了他的重要海報作品《反對種族隔離》( Against Apartheid)的一年。在這一標誌性的圖像中,李奇登斯坦用不同風格的筆觸來描繪作品中之主題。以其獨特的卡通風格描繪的線條圖像與橫跨圖像表層的原顏料之痕跡相互協調作用,創造出一曲活力四射的交響樂,而其中的每個組成部分相互支持著各自的美學重量 - 隱喻著一個和平共存的社會。在《頭像》中,我們被吸引進同一個元參考遊戲之中。李奇登斯坦回憶起他與所挪用的圖像之間長期存在的關係,模糊了所謂的「原創」與復制之間的連結。雖然作品右側的構成似乎是以簡化的形式為基礎,讓人聯想到60年代的《筆觸》繪畫,但是它們的卡通化則被嬌豔的粉肉色所干擾,讓人聯想起威廉‧德‧庫寧(Willem de Kooning)的超大型符號。 創造意義的方法進一步被面部的圖案本身所挑戰。嘴唇和眼睛以混合的風格出現;它們代表了人類的面部特徵,但同樣也可以純粹作為筆觸來解讀。

    從他職業生涯的早期開始,李奇登斯坦便迅速承認他的作品與抽象表現主義中的「底子指向性」(ground-directedness)的壓倒性傾向之間的關係,「你畫下一些東西,對之作出反應,再畫下一些別的東西,於是繪畫自身就變成了這樣一個符號。」(羅伊·李奇登斯坦,摘自《什麼是波普藝術?與八位畫家的訪談》,G.R.斯文森,藝術新聞67,1963年11月,第25-27頁)但是儘管李奇登斯坦承認波普藝術的參照傾向倡導為「物件指向性」(object directed)的方法,他同樣迅速地強調了他的作品與紐約學派的抽象之間的結合:「這裏有著幽默感。作品仍舊是底子指向的;這是一條眉毛也好,或者是什麼東西的幾乎直接複製也好,都不重要。底子指向性存在於畫家的腦子裡而不是在繪畫中立即顯現出來。」(羅伊·李奇登斯坦,引自同上)在這件作品中,「班戴點」(Ben-Day dots)被用作裝飾圖案而不是視覺敘事的組成部分。因此,《頭像》表達了李奇登斯坦的基本信念,即使它可能指涉了流行文化中的元素,他的藝術同樣是一種形式上的實踐,通過將顏料應用於畫布上去審視構圖的抽象組成。正如他的妻子多蘿西·李奇登斯坦(Dorothy Lichtenstein)所指出的那樣,「羅伊將他的所有畫作視為畫布上的抽象線條和標記,無論它們看起來如何。」(多蘿西·李奇登斯坦在展覽畫冊中,《李奇登斯坦:現代繪畫》,戴夫·希基(Dave Hickey),紐約:Richard Gray 畫廊,2010年,第5頁)間接引用畢加索(Picasso)稚拙的抽象肖像畫作,李奇登斯坦將《頭像》用鮮明的兩側各半垂直解剖架構而成:徒手而繪的一片垂直棕色顏料與班戴點的機械規劃圖案形成對比。成功地將自由揮舞的藝術抽象與商業印刷美學結合在一起,李奇登斯坦在《頭像》這件作品中證明,這些風格不僅可以和諧地共存,而且它們還可以共同創造人類的新視野。

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Ο ✱9

Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection

Head

1986
signed and dated '© rf Lichtenstein '86' on the reverse
oil and Magna on canvas
228.6 x 152.4 cm. (90 x 60 in.)
Executed in 1986.

Estimate
HK$22,000,000 - 35,000,000 
€2,510,000-3,990,000
$2,820,000-4,490,000

Place Advance Bid

Contact Specialist
Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019