Roy Lichtenstein’s American Indian Theme I belongs to the artist’s American Indian Theme series, which makes up a small part of his infamously pop inclined creative output. Yet, this series of the late 1970s and early 1980sties stylistically in with the artist’s overarching enterprise. The works in the series bear resemblance to both his Surrealist inspired art of the same decade, as well as his pre-pop oeuvre of the 1950s.
In American Indian Theme I, Lichtenstein aims to first and foremost examine the symbols and myths surrounding American Indian culture and heritage.Therefore, the artist utilises various geographical sources of Native American design. He proceeds by fully abstracting his chosen three dimensional ornamentations from their original contexts.
Subsequently, Lichtenstein places the compressed figures of American Indian Theme I in the midst of saturated colours and stylised geometric patterns. The forms we are presented with may be interpreted as inanimate objects like tribal monuments, or as animals and shamans caught in the act. They are strange and familiar at once, frozen in motion and pinned to the canvas.
Lichtenstein’s American Indian Theme seriesconstitutes a distinct part of his enduring project of appropriating prior art as a form of cultural commentary.