Roy Lichtenstein - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, April 18, 2023 | Phillips
  • “In America the biggest is the best.”
    —Roy Lichtenstein

    Perhaps no artist of the Twentieth Century has employed such an instantly recognizable visual language as Roy Lichtenstein. His signature palette of bold primary colors set against neutral blocks of black, white and gray creates stunningly dynamic canvases from which his signature dots and bold lines emerge. He is as well known for this very technique as he is for the subjects he paints— interior scenes, portraits of consumer products, filmic scenes transformed from the pages of comic books, and, as in the case of the present lot, emblems of American culture. His approach to creating is both unique in its style and symbolic of the times in its use of appropriation. Lichtenstein’s imagery thrusts forth the objects in a bold and striking super-reality; culling inspiration from the everyday imagery of Americana, his work has sustained its prominence as one of the most radical and unique visions of the Post-War period.

    Like many artists of the late Twentieth Century, Lichtenstein used his compositions to address the rampant consumerism and commercialization of the time. By choosing an omnipresent image—the American flag—and reimagining it with a new color scheme, bold lines, and sharp contrast, he imbues his work with a deep pathos of contemporary American culture. He accentuates the banality of a recognizable symbol, and fully explores the artifice of perspective and the limits of flatness. Instead of white stars against a blue background, magnified blue dots take their place, and we find thick and bold diagonal red lines as a substitute for the vertical alternating red and white stripes. Forms in Space hints at a comic-book inspired narrative of the symbol of Americana.

    Lichtenstein’s interpretation of the American flag, is not just mechanized through enlarged dots and slanted lines, but evokes something of the actual mechanics of perception. Lichtenstein investigates the ways in which the eyes perceive color, distance, shape and form, by abstracting an image that is burned in our memories in one particular and unerring way. Lichtenstein’s configuration of lines, dots, and colors forces us to read the American symbol as a new image, challenging our reflexes and intuition. Replacing the stars with simple circles, Lichtenstein comments on consumerism’s contribution to American culture: the stars are now dulled into mundane representations of their former glory. In addition, the angled relationship of Lichtenstein’s stripes to their referent signals a nation in straits with tenets of its original values.

    Forms in Space, though highly saturated in its connotations of a dystopian America, is the quintessential embodiment of Lichtenstein’s brilliant refashioning of icons. In and of itself, it is a symbol of two freedoms: artistic and individualistic.

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Pennsylvania

    • Literature

      Mary Lee Corlett 217


Forms in Space (C. 217)

Screenprint in colors, on Rives BFK paper, with margins.
I. 31 1/8 x 47 1/4 in. (79.1 x 120 cm)
S. 35 3/4 x 51 5/8 in. (90.8 x 131.1 cm)

Signed, dated and numbered 107/125 in pencil (there were also 20 artist's proofs), published by the artist for the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $82,550

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212 940 1220


Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 18 - 20 April 2023