(Poster) January 16 is a classic pop offset lithographic poster featuring a brooding artist called Brad and his striking red-lipped girlfriend, who is praising his creative genius. This bright, irony-infused scene can be interpreted as a fantasy version of the success that was coming to Lichtenstein at the moment of his first breakthrough.
Using a handful of primary hues, (Poster) January 16 mirrors the colour palettes available to newspaper and magazine printers. Leaving his Ben Day dot system on the sidelines, with which he usually evoked tone and texture, bold and flat colour fields dominate the present work. This poster is unusual in its incorporation of a male character.
Isolating his cartoon heroines and intimately portraying female bodies thriving in solitude was more consistent with the artist’s creative explorations. Regardless, Lichtenstein did produce various cubist and expressionist takes on the male figure. The Couple from the artist’s 1980 Expressionist Woodcut series is a remarkable example.
The comic book imagery that Lichtenstein played with is the embodiment of dismissible, lowbrow art. It is mass-produced, created for the pleasure of the audience and for commercial gain. By recontextualising its imagery and presenting it as high culture, Lichtenstein challenges hierarchical perceptions of what art can and can’t be.