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Perfect/Imperfect

Roy Lichtenstein's Perfect and Imperfect series, begun in the 80s, both feature abstract geometrics, intersecting lines, bold colours, stripes and Ben Day dots. In a nod to their respective titles: Perfect prints fit geometrical composition neatly within rectangular picture plane, while Imperfect works break the rectangular framing and protrude through its borders.

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Meaning & Analysis

Started in the 1980s, Lichtenstein’s related series: Perfect and Imperfect, seek to reshape commercial visuals into compositions of pure abstraction. His artistic style was first recognised for mimicking comic strips and advertising images in the 1960s. Although Lichtenstein’s artworks looked industrially made at first glance, his series of paintings and prints were actually achieved manually. The artist’s efforts paved the way for a new generation of artists emerging in the 1980s, who decided to delve deeper into the means of appropriation.

Lichtenstein’s image-making extended in numerous directions over the course of his career. His clean-cut graphics also re-imagined various art historical sources in his own creative voice. He initiated countless dialogues with artistic genres of the past, invigorating the historical iconography through contemporary forms.

Lichtenstein explored Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism among other movements. He was particularly interested in the artistic heritage imparted by modern masters. The artist continued taunting and undermining the idolised and excluding sphere of fine art until his passing in 1997.

Starting in the early 1980s and engaging the subject matter well into the 1990s, Lichtenstein developed two related series titled Perfect and Imperfect. In both sequences, he sought to subtly reshape commercial visuals into compositions of pure abstraction. The prints in the two series manifest a stunning search for geometrical precision, demonstrating Lichtenstein’s diverse range of technical and formal competencies.

Both the Perfect and the Imperfect works exhibit intersecting triangles, large planes of colour and Lichtenstein’s signature Ben Day dots and stripes. The artist first explored his Perfect prints, fitting his geometrical composition neatly within the confines of a rectangular picture plane. Contrastingly, the Imperfect works next in line sabotaged the framework imprisoning their predecessors. Instead of making the triangles fit, the shapes miss the edge, project beyond it, puncture it, stab and poke at it and protrude through its borders.

10 Facts About Roy Lichtenstein's Perfect/Imperfect

Imperfect 67″ x 79 7/9 by Roy Lichtenstein

Imperfect 67″ x 79 7/9 © Roy Lichtenstein 1988

1. Lichtenstein's Perfect/Imperfect takes his fascination with abstraction to the next level.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Lichtenstein increasingly developed a more abstract form of representation that departed from his comic strip-inspired works. Developing on his abstract approach in the earlier Mirrors series, Perfect/Imperfect completely reduces form to flat, geometric shapes and lines.

Imperfect 44 3/4″ x 103″ by Roy Lichtenstein

Imperfect 44 3/4″ x 103″ © Roy Lichtenstein 1988

2. The series is somewhat nonsensical.

While most of his earlier works were critical interpretations of popular imagery, Perfect/Imperfect is a body of work that Lichtenstein himself described as "meaningless". As the artist said of the series: "It seemed to be the most meaningless way to make an abstraction ... dumb paintings ... [like] the nameless generic painting you might find in the background of a sitcom, the abstraction hanging over the couch."

Crying Girl by Roy Lichtenstein

Crying Girl © Roy Lichtenstein 1963

3. The series is completely original.

As a true Pop Artist, Lichtenstein's imagery originated almost entirely from mass-circulated visual media. Perfect/Imperfect, on the other hand, is completely self-generated, borrowing nothing from existing imagery.

Imperfect Diptych 46 1/4″ X 91 3/8″ by Roy Lichtenstein

Imperfect Diptych 46 1/4″ X 91 3/8″ © Roy Lichtenstein 1988