If life were like a work of art, what would it look like? How would you take the most ordinary daily routine, such as breakfast, and transform it into an artistic masterpiece? While looking through the Art and Artist Files at the Hirshhorn Museum and American Art/Portrait Gallery libraries, I was given a better idea of what it would be like to have breakfast in the boldly graphic world of Roy Lichtenstein, one of the most important figures in Pop Art.
To set the scene for this first meal of the day, we turn to the Still Life and Interiors series from the 1970s and 1990s respectively. These paintings, which are featured as the covers to invitations and advertisements for exhibitions of Lichtenstein’s work in the Art and Artist Files, transport us into the linear, pixelated, two-dimensional world of the artist, painted mainly in primary colors. Breakfast is not complete, of course, without morning coffee (see the Lichtenstein inspired advertisement for Brazilian coffee below) and a healthy assortment of fruit (see Lichtenstein’s Still Lifes ), which can be enjoyed from your Lichtenstein designed china, part of an exclusive set sold in 1969 by the Leo Castelli Gallery and produced by Durable Dish Co.
This limited edition dishware was actually inspired by a collection of ceramics that Lichtenstein produced in 1965 in collaboration with professional ceramicist Hui Ka Kwong. This is a series that points to larger themes and concerns within Lichtenstein’s artistic project. These ceramic sculptures of dishware occupy what Lichtenstein referred to as a space of “certain ambiguity” between high and low art. At first glance, these sculptures appear to be common household items that are meant to be used and dirtied, which contrasts with the advanced skill and innovative techniques that were employed to create these ceramics. Their perceived simplicity and banality as dishware allow Lichtenstein to create works of art that are explorations of light and reflections on surfaces, a project that he expands later on in his career with his Mirrors series of paintings completed in 1969- 1972. Christopher Gray explains in Sculpture and Ceramics of Paul Gauguin, “Lichtenstein conceals the process from banal object to art … distinguishing his genuine aesthetic concern in apparent anti-sensibility and [his] painstaking craftsmanship in the appearance of mass production.” Through these seemingly simple objects, Lichtenstein expands the field of possibility within art. His work is at once playful and humorous, yet also comments on the status of the art object and is a way he can explore more cerebral elements of art such as the complexities of light and shade.
For Further Reading:
Constance W. Glenn. Roy Lichtenstein Ceramic Sculpture: an exhibition organized by the Art Galleries, California State University, Long Beach, February 22-March 20, 1977.