Beginning in the mid-1960s, pop pioneer Roy Lichtenstein embarked on canvases depicting enlarged cartoon brushstrokes. His premeditated variations imitated the improvised energy with which these colourful sweeps appeared in abstract expressionist paintings. Invoking a sense of spontaneity, Lichtenstein rendered his static strokes in the style of commercial art.
Yellow Brushstroke of 1985 belongs to the artist’s prolific exploration of the brushstroke motif, which comprises several unique editions and portfolios. The print confronts art historical legacies by distilling the main characteristics of brushwork into one cropped sweep of colour. Lichtenstein centers his bright yellow brushstroke on a black and white background of faux-burlap. The flattened smears and splatters of colour are enveloped by trailing outlines defining the shape and direction of the brushstroke. At first glance, Lichtenstein’s Yellow Brushstroke appears to be devoid of explicit motion. Yet, the bold shadows resulting from the contours hold inherent suggestions of movement.
This artwork is the quintessential embodiment of not only Lichtenstein’s oeuvre but of Pop Art itself. The print’s reduced and stylised iconography manifests an intuitive painterly expression as a calculated and controlled visual sign. By presenting a cartoonish take on the act of painting, Yellow Brushstroke questions the authenticity of autobiographical mark-making in art.