About This Artwork

Roy Lichtenstein
American, 1923-1997

Alka Seltzer, 1966

Graphite and lithographic rubbing crayon pochoir, with scraping, on cream wove paper, fixed 
763 x 567 mm

Margaret Fisher Endowment, 1993.176

© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein had been exhibiting in galleries for nearly ten years when, in 1961, he dramatically changed the course of his work. Prompted by the comic strips on his children’s gum wrappers, he began to create paintings based on cartoon images. The reductive style that soon emerged became his particular contribution to the idiom known as Pop Art. From around 1961 until 1968, the artist created a group of highly finished black-and-white drawings that demonstrate his subversive use of commercial illustration techniques. In Alka Seltzer, Lichtenstein exploited everyday practices of visual representation and magnified them, indicating the gas bubbles rising over the glass by meticulously scraping away extra spaces from a field of imitation hand-stenciled Benday dots. To signify the reflective surface of the glass, he drew flat black graphite shapes—a parody, like the dots, of the reductive, linecut effect of pulp advertising. The artist’s use of mechanical reproduction conventions served to unify his composition and produce movement and volume on a two-dimensional surface. Alka Seltzer is one of Lichtenstein’s watershed works because it shows the artist summing up his early graphic techniques and introducing what would become his most significant formal preoccupations in the years that followed.

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