Mirrors Roy Lichtenstein
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Pop icon Roy Lichtenstein’s enigmatic works featuring mirrors alternate between the intricate and the simplistic. The mirror motif is one of the metaphorical objects the artist delved into in his research concerning perception and representation. Lichtenstein worked on his vast series of oval, circular and rectangular mirrors for over two decades. This abstracted sequence contains fragmented and unified compositions, depicting both single and multi paneled mirrors.
The iconography of mirrors is deeply rooted in history. The symbol has long served classic mythology as a form of moralistic commentary on vanity. In art, the icon has frequently acted as the conveyor of the complex, the hidden and the unconscious. Additionally, mirrors have aided painting in its rivalry with sculpture.
In keeping with the traditions of object painting, Lichtenstein’s Mirrors maintain the conventional appearance of their main motif. As a matter of fact, the artist identifies the whole surface of each artwork with the correct physical form of a mirror. However, Lichtenstein dismisses the object’s intended purposes, removing its metaphorical implications, as well as its functionality.
Instead, Lichtenstein focuses on the unpaintable aspect of mirrors; the play of reflections. Lichtenstein grows his compositions with great geometric precision, utilising the abstract and artificial qualities of his own visual language. Accordingly, his Mirror prints are both constituted and obscured by a pop aesthetic.
The Mirrors exhibit object studies of centrally placed, enlarged and isolated artifacts. They arrest imitations of uneven, smooth and reflective surfaces. Each mirror is adorned by diversified colours, parallel diagonal lines and a gradation of dots. These dense patterns allude to the optical attributes of luminous glass. Meanwhile, jagged lines at the outer edges of every form denote the beveled framework of real life mirrors.
Lichtenstein portrays his mirrors frontally, displaying the complete absence of any and all concrete reflections. Each item is presented legibly, but is consistently qualified by flatness and a matte finish. The series captures a dialogue between an iconised object and the formal independence emphasised by Lichtenstein’s art. Therefore, these artworks are parodies, sly misrepresentations, disguised by the artist under the pretense of representation. Essentially, the prints in this sequence are as contradictory, as they are illustrative.
The artist recognises that there is no convincing way to portray a mirror, because a mirror simply shows whatever is placed in front of it. As such, the series draws inspiration from photographs and diagrams of mirrors. The Mirror prints are manufactured through combined printing methods, including screenprint, line-cut, lithography and embossing.
Over the course of his career, Lichtenstein worked on several series of object-paintings, which also conveyed material realities in the style of comics. His Entablatures, for instance, reproduce magnified architectural fragments. Meanwhile, his Water Lilies and Reflections works conduct similar investigations into perception and representation.
The Mirror prints appear carefully coded, exploiting Lichtenstein’s renowned style to a delicate effect. By dissecting a pre-existing sign, the prints demonstrate that art partakes in our conditioned knowledge of the world. With or without function and symbolic charge, Lichtenstein’s Mirrors prove that art conveys important insight into how we order and understand our surroundings. At last, the Mirror series manifests the artist’s relentless focus and devotion to his subject matter.
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