Roy Lichtenstein began the Reflections Series in 1988 in Southampton incorporating quotations of both previously depicted and new comic strips, a motif not fully used since the 1960s. He came upon the idea while trying to photograph a Rauschenberg print under glass. Lichtenstein’s objective for his Reflections Series of prints was to partially obscure the images with reflective streaks, as if behind glass or reflected by a mirror. He worked on a group of seven Reflections pieces at Tyler Graphics in Mount Kisco, New York during 1989 and 1990.
Rather than attempt to reproduce his subjects, Lichtenstein’s work tackled the way in which the mass media portrays them. He would never take himself too seriously, however, saying: “I think my work is different from comic strips — but I wouldn’t call it transformation; I don’t think that whatever is meant by it is important to art .”
Fascinated by the arresting and emotionally charged imagery found in romance and war comics, Lichtenstein sought to recreate in paint the immediacy and impact of these simplified printed images . In his Reflections Series Lichtenstein created a number of collages and multimedia works that included metal, and often a plastic paper called Rowlux that had a shimmery surface and suggested movement. By re-appropriating the traditional artistic motif of landscape and portrait paintings and rendering it in his Pop idiom, Lichtenstein demonstrated his extensive knowledge of the history of art and suggested the proximity of high and low art forms.
For Lichtenstein, lines and dots were intentional and tools he would use to gain a place in art history. He wanted to be the American Picasso. His works of parody reflect American culture and always pushed the boundaries. By uniting low art form and high art content in a way that is both humorous and pugnaciously irreverent, Lichtenstein was able to imply a debunking of the newly established canon of modernist works and to de-deify not only its practitioners but also its collectors. At the same time, and ironically, he joined them, and we see through his work an acknowledged tradition of quotation that stretches back through art history from Picasso to Velázquez, from Manet to Marcantonio Raimondi . Subsequently, as in his masterpiece Reflections on Crash of 1990, we see him incorporating references to his past work, as though the circle was now almost complete, as though his own work had become infinitely self-referential and, hence, self-sustaining.
In order to break the idea of the picture of something, he would rotate the image plane and also look at his work through a mirror. Besides the printed dots, comics are a recognizable element of Lichtenstein’s art, but he used them as a source of inspiration and of materials for his works only for a few years. The narrative power of the frames served to impact him with a much more powerful and complex perception of the image, not in the subject or the action . Under this statement, Lichtenstein took the female figure, which was portrayed in line with the stereotypes of the social and cultural context of that period, as the only theme in his works between 1994 and 1995. Among his heroes were ManDrake the Magician and Superman so it is no wonder that Lichtenstein would place the image of Superwoman in an intimate sphere, among herself, sensual yet encompassed in an aura of action where romanticism is replaced with narcissism.
“All my subjects are always two-dimensional”, Lichtenstein commented, “or at least they come from two-dimensional sources. The fact that his source imagery originates from comics and is then transformed into an original work by Roy Lichtenstein signals the movement of the society at the time from ordinary object art to pop art and still art-making that’s consistent with contemporary society.
View the full collection here.