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September 24, 2017

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Lichtenstein retrospective opens in Chicago

CHICAGO -- The colorful, comic dots of Pop art icon Roy Lichtenstein burst off the walls at the first retrospective since his death in 1997.

Scenes of war and romance lifted from comics and recast onto massive canvases lead seamlessly into his more abstract explosions and brushstrokes, his reworking of classics like Monet's Haystacks, and the luminous Chinese landscapes Lichtenstein painted near the end of his life.

More than 160 works — including never-before-seen sculptures, drawings and paintings from private collections — are bunched in a major exhibit that opens in Chicago on Tuesday before heading to Washington, London and Paris.

"Lichtenstein is rightly recognized for being a foundational Pop artist who created some of the most iconic works of the 20th century," said co-curator James Rondeau of the Art Institute of Chicago.

"Our aim with this exhibition is to explore the full range of absorbing contradictions at the heart of Lichtenstein's work — starting with the paradox that Lichtenstein systematically dismantled the history of modern art while becoming a fixture in that canon."

Born in New York in 1923, Lichtenstein began painting seriously after his service in World War II.

But he did not find fame until he abandoned cubist and abstract styles and challenged the art world with his "artless" cartoons beginning in 1961.

Lichtenstein's "Look Mickey" — which opens the exhibit — is considered to be the first Pop art painting.

Its simplistic subject — an illustration from a book he read to his sons of Donald Duck hooking a fishing line on his shirt while Mickey covers his laughing mouth — was seen as heretical, pedestrian or banal.

"It was an incredibly radical gesture," co-curator Sheena Wagstaff of London's Tate Modern told AFP.

"When he came up with these images, he was fairly derided, as many artists have been in the avant garde. Nobody really understood what he was doing."

Hand-painted Ben-Day dots which mimicked commercial printing processes became Lichtenstein's signature as he blurred the lines between 'low' and 'high' art.

The exhibit runs through September 3 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

It will then travel to the National Galley of Art in Washington from October 14 until January 13, 2013. It opens at London's Tate Modern on Feb. 21, 2013 and runs through May 27, 2013. The retrospective will appear at the Centre Pompidou in Paris from July 3 to Nov. 4, 2013.

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