Roy Lichtenstein’s Against Apartheid from 1983 is an elaborate lithograph that exemplifies his outstanding talent as a print maker. It is also a wonderful example of the artist’s mastery of art history. As a leading figure of Pop Art, Lichtenstein is best known for his graphic cartoon aesthetic. However, the artist frequently fused non-figural shapes, historical genres and painterly gestures too.
Against Apartheid abandons Lichtenstein’s characteristic stenciled dots and paneled disposition. Instead, the work features imitations of abstract expressionist brushwork. As a result, the composition bears resemblance to Lichtenstein’s concurrent Brushstroke Faces and Paintings.
The enlarged bottom left corner of a bright yellow frame covers the majority of Against Apartheid’s pictorial plane. The cropped portrait is mounted on a stark black and white striped background. A muted explosion of contrasting green, grey, cream, and red coloured brushstrokes erupts within the frame. Lichtenstein intertwines his schematic sweeps and spontaneous gestural marks. The final impression of the image evokes in the viewer a feeling of incompleteness.
Against Apartheid was manufactured by the artist to raise awareness for a noble cause. The work benefitted Artists of the World, an organization established in cooperation with the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid in South Africa.