Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein Is Getting a Retrospective at the Whitney—and a Stamp of Approval From the USPS, Too
The USPS is unveiling five new postage stamp designs celebrating the artist.
The news coincides with the unveiling of a new U.S. Postal Service stamp series commemorating five of Lichtenstein’s works.
The artist first developed his signature style, painting copies of scenes from comic books that mimicked the Ben-Day dot printing process used in the medium, in 1961. His elevation of mass media into fine art, with its uncanny machine-like quality, became one of the foundational elements of the Pop Art movement, catapulting Lichtenstein to international fame.
“Few artists in history so perfectly crystallize art and social currents within their work as Lichtenstein did,” Scott Rothkopf, the museum’s chief curator and soon-to-be director said today. “He understood something deep about both the optimism and darker edge of American postwar culture, and with great concision gave them form in his signature stripes and Benday dots. Even though the printing processes he aped are all but unrecognizable today, his sense of how images function, circulate, and duplicate seems perfectly in tune with our digital age.”
Designed by USPS art director Derry Noyes, stamps recreate the 1965 sculpture Standing Explosion (Red), at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; the 1966 canvas Modern Painting I at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation; the 1972 painting Still Life With Crystal Bowl at the Whitney; and two paintings from private collections, Still Life With Goldfish (1972) and painting Portrait of a Woman (1979).
“I have always been a fan of the post office. I think it’s an amazing organization. It gets mail to everywhere, not just in this country, but around the world,” Dorothy Lichtenstein, the artist’s widow and president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, said in a statement. “I think it’s an honor, and more people will find out about Roy. I think he would have really loved [the stamps].”
The Whitney first began collecting Lichtenstein’s work—it now owns 443 objects by the artist—in 1966, the year after he first appeared in the Whitney Annual, the forerunner to today’s prestigious Whitney Biennial. The artist’s many honors included election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York and the National Medal of Arts, bestowed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, just two years before his death from pneumonia in 1997, at just 73.
That the backbone of Lichtenstein’s success was the appropriation of other artists’ work was largely accepted by the art world during his lifetime, but has inspired accusations of plagiarism in more recent years, especially from the comic book artist community.
The stamps come in a sheet of 20 that also includes a Bob Adelman photograph of Lichtenstein posing with a model for the 1983 sculpture Brushstrokes in Flight.
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