Crystal Bridges Museum Acquires Works by Warhol, Lichtenstein

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has acquired two stellar examples of Pop art by the artists who defined and shaped the movement. Dolly Parton (1985), painted late in Andy Warhol’s career, expressed his life-long fascination with celebrity and glamour in a dazzling homage to the Queen of Country Music. In Standing Explosion (Red) (1966) Roy Lichtenstein translated one of his signature comic book motifs into a burst of three-dimensional form. Both works capture the dazzling energy of American consumer culture while employing mechanical processes and materials, a hallmark of the Pop art movement.

Andy Warhol, Dolly Parton, 1985, Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas, 42 x 42 in. (106.7 x 106.7 cm) Courtesy Sotheby’s

With her big hair, purple eye shadow and vivid red lips, Dolly Parton embodies the glamour that makes her a worthy successor to the pantheon of iconic superstars immortalized by Warhol in the 1960s. Characteristic of his celebrity portraits, Warhol employed the silkscreen process, as he had done in portraits of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor earlier in his career to depict his subject in a more flattering light.
“Dolly is a dazzling subject, with her halo of silver gold curls reminding us of an angel’s halo in a medieval painting,” said Don Bacigalupi, director of the museum. “At it’s large scale, – she really greets the viewer.”

Born in Pittsburgh, Pa. to working-class immigrants from northeastern Slovakia, Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) studied commercial art at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and began his career as a commercial illustrator. In the early 1960s he embraced post-War American plenty with paintings and silk-screens of Campbell’s soup cans, Coke bottles, Brillo boxes and celebrities, helping to define the nascent Pop art movement. “The Factory,” Warhol’s glittery New York City studio, drew a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, eccentrics and underground celebrities into his milieu, and Warhol achieved world-wide fame as a painter, print maker, avant-garde filmmaker and impresario.

Warhol died in 1987 following routine gallbladder surgery. His work is included in museum collections around the world, with his legacy being most fully documented in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. His work has been extensively documented in numerous exhibitions, including Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) won international fame for mining comic strips for subject matter, mimicking the black outlines, bold colors and Ben-Day dots of the funny pages in paintings of sobbing damsels and air battles. Standing Explosion (Red) represents one of his early attempts to render the flat comic book graphics in three-dimensional sculpture form.

“This work announces the arrival of Pop art in a loud and explicit way,” Bacigalupi said. “There’s a layering of his technical borrowings here, with the enameled suggestion of Ben-Day dots and the cartoon graphic of an ephemeral explosion, frozen in space and time.”

The explosion motif first appeared in Lichtenstein’s work in early ‘60s works such as Blam (1962), Live Ammo (Blang) (1962) and Whaam! (1963). In Standing Explosion (Red) he extended his formal exploration of the shape, using several layers of brightly painted steel to create a three-dimensional sculpture that retained the full frontal force of his paintings.

Roy Lichtenstein was born and raised in Manhattan. He studied with American scene painter Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from The Ohio State University. He initially experimented with Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, but found his signature style after his young son challenged him to paint as well as the artists in his Mickey Mouse comic book. Look Mickey (1961) was the first of a series of works featuring characters from cartoons and Bazooka Bubble Gum wrappers, and led to the 1962 solo show at Leo Castelli’s New York City gallery that launched his career.

In later years Lichtenstein applied his comic book style to subjects borrowed from Picasso, Cezanne, Mondrian and other “name brand” artists. He continued to craft sculptures in metal and plastic and also made prints and murals. He died in 1997. His work is represented in the collections of major museums around the world.

Lower image: Roy Lichtenstein, Standing Explosion (Red), 1966, Porcelain enamel on steel, 38 x 25 x 30 in. (96.5 x 63.5 x 76.2 cm)

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