Roy Lichtenstein’s artistic practice frequently reacted against the creative introspection of previous generations. In fact, the artist adopted his infamous visual vocabulary of consumer and popular culture to counteract idealised artistic legacies.
Lichtenstein’s minimalistic etching, On,was completed in 1962 and depicts a scaled back illustration of a light switch. On is one of the artist's early black and white single object prints that set out to satirise an ordinary item. In this humorous etching, the artist contrasts the trivial and the serious; the mechanical versus the handmade.
Conceptually, Lichtenstein plays on the beholder’s preconditioned understanding of art. The light switch is magnified and suspended in the middle of the canvas, taking on the emblematic authority of an icon. Formally, the print utilises an old-fashioned pictorial organization devoid of colour fillers. As a result, On achieves an impact depending on its graphic and detailed rendering of a generic object.
Lichtenstein’s careful tracing and contouring makes the work resemble a continuous line drawing exercise. The reduced and flattened object’s edges are sharply silhouetted against the surrounding stark white background. This radical flatness and the sketch-like qualities of the print offer an ultimate parody of fine art and classical genres.