Two decades after the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s 1972 poetry collection, The Fall Of America, Roy Lichtenstein was entrusted with illustrating a selection of poems from the book. Ginsberg was a central member of the Beat Generation, a literary movement responding to changes in American culture and politics in the post-war era.
Lichtenstein’s 1992 Auto Poesie En Cavale De Bloomington is predicated on Ginsberg’s “Auto Poesy: On the Lam to Bloomington”. The original poem is characterised by a spontaneous and inconclusive style of expression. The concept auto-poesy is used to describe poems composed aboard a moving vehicle, while also signifying a type of autobiographical poetry. Bloomington is most commonly referred to as a gateway to the scenic South, the departure point for those seeking the true and primordial America.
Lichtenstein’s minimalistic vignette is divided in two and captures the outset of an imaginary excursion. The pastel coloured left side of the image shows the daytime depiction of an empty highway, while on the right we see the dark blue route at night. At Lichtenstein’s hands, the dashed lines, indicating the middle of the road, morph into horizontal towers stretching into the desert. The artist crowns his cleverly arranged composition on each side with the yellow glow of a guiding light. In doing so, Lichtenstein transforms the overall impression of the freeways into lighthouses, directing the travelers to their journey’s end.