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Perfect/Imperfect

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Critical Review

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.

Why is the Perfect/Imperfect collection important?

Lichtenstein utilises a three-dimensional pictorial language in his Perfect and Imperfect works. Interconnected lines are employed as the primary structure in both series, forming webs of shapes filled either with single colours or dense patterns. Assertive outlines and compact dots and stripes add tone and texture, complimenting and elevating the flat areas. As a result, the surfaces are imbued with sculpture-like attributes, making the corners of the depicted shapes appear to be jutting out.

The controlled contours applied in the Perfect/Imperfect series mirror the technique used in continuous line drawing exercises. Distinct compositions evolve out of these flowing lines, as the artist allows their angles and directions to change during the process of creation. Certain geometrical shapes in these series cling resolutely to Lichtenstein’s primary colour scheme, while others embrace secondary hues and pastel tones.

In the end what truly sets the Perfect/Imperfect series apart, is that they unexpectedly abrupt the evolution of the artist’s revisionist oeuvre. The subject matter of the two series originates from Lichtenstein's own design, rather than deriving inspiration from mass produced images. Indeed, the two sequences in question are entirely self-generated. Maintaining a firm conceptual framework, Lichtenstein’s Perfect/Imperfect prints showcase an innovative and meticulous layout.

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