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Indepth Arts News:

"Roy Lichtenstein: American Indian Encounters"
2006-05-13 until 2006-09-04
Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma, WA, USA United States of America

Tacoma Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Roy Lichtenstein: American Indian Encounters, explores the lesser-known periods of the pop art icon’s career. On view from May 13 through September 4, 2006, the exhibition examines Lichtenstein’s fascination with American frontier themes from the 1950s and his Amerindian series of 1979 to 1981. “Roy Lichtenstein is a key figure in twentieth-century American art,” said Tacoma Art Museum Curator of Contemporary and Northwest Art, Rock Hushka. ”Still, certain aspects of his career have yet to be thoroughly examined. This exhibition offers an invaluable opportunity to see how Lichtenstein returned to the theme of the Native American at different stages of his career.”

American Indian Encounters features paintings and works on paper inspired by Lichtenstein’s appreciation of Native American art. The exhibition also includes Native-American-themed works on paper created between 1950 and 1951 that reflect Lichtenstein’s interests in European modernists such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee. A major series of surrealist-pop paintings based on Native-American themes from 1979 to 1981 is also highlighted in the exhibition, as well as his sketchbook of Native-American images based on motifs from textiles, ceramics, beadwork, quillwork, and baskets. The exhibition also includes a superb selection of Native-American objects from the Montclair Art Museum’s permanent collection. This juxtaposition allows viewers to compare cultural artifacts with Lichtenstein’s cool and distilled interpretations.

“Lichtenstein borrowed from the stereotype of ‘the American Indian’ as it filtered and percolated through mainstream American culture. He was not drawing from specific meanings, but showing how certain ideas, beliefs, and myths were very much a part of American self-identity,” said Hushka. “It’s about blurring the distinction between fine art and popular culture.”

As one of the founders of American pop art, Lichtenstein achieved international prominence in the 1960s for his sly, provocative transformations of images from comics, cartoons, and advertisements. Having established his practice of utilizing stereotypical reproductions of America’s history in the 1950s, Lichtenstein continued to explore the visual clichés by which American culture has defined itself.

Exploring what he called “a kind of conception of the over-reproduced,” Lichtenstein reworked images of American Indians and their cultures as the clichéd signs of high art and mass media in a fresh, modern way, “to erase the meaning of the originals” and create a new formal unity.

Roy Lichtenstein: American Indian Encounters, presented by the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, is organized by the Montclair Art Museum in conjunction with the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. The exhibition and catalogue are supported by generous grants from the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, the Karma Foundation, and from the following Exhibition Angels: Anonymous, Susan and David Bershad, Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker, Pat and Mort David, Dorothea and Peter Frank, Gregg Seibert, Linda and Brian Sterling, Judith and William Turner, Carol and Harlan Waksal, Carol and Terry Wall, and Margo and Frank Walter. Additional support has been provided by Adrian Shelby, Jacqueline and Herb Klein, and Marilyn and Michael Dore. Local support is provided by The Paul G. Allen Foundation.

Tacoma Art Museum connects people and builds community through art. The museum serves the diverse communities of the region through its collection, exhibitions, and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest. The museum’s five galleries display an array of top national shows, the best of Northwest art, creatively themed exhibitions, and historical retrospectives. In addition, there is an Education Wing for children, adults, and seniors with an art resource center, classroom, and studio for art making. Tacoma Art Museum is located in Tacoma’s Museum District, near the Museum of Glass, the Washington State History Museum, and historic Union Station.

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