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Lichtenstein of the Week

So far, over the course of our Lichtenstein of the Week series, we’ve seen Lichtenstein’s take on comic art, Abstract Expressionism, entablature, advertising, and POTUS #1 George Washington. This week, we look at Lichtenstein’s one and only film project, an installation which plays in a one-minute loop on three panels.

Three Landscapes (1970–1) explores ocean and sky in Lichtenstein’s typical deadpan fashion. Thick black lines serve as horizons; they rock back and forth as if one was looking through the porthole of a ship. In the right panel, a motionless seagull hangs in an impossibly blue sky; below it the sea shimmers with vibrant orange light. The middle panel has the closest approximation of an actual sky, but the sea is obviously a shot of tropical fish in an aquarium. The right panel strays even further from reality, depicting the sky with Lichtenstein’s trademark Ben-Day dots; the ocean is a close-up of iridescent moving water.

The film installation relates directly to the kinetic landscape collages Lichtenstein was making in the mid-60s using Rowlex—a prismatic plastic—with metal, Mylar, and vinyl to suggest the movement of water. His ironic and playful portrayal of ocean and sky seem to explore similar themes as his kinetic landscapes, producing something evocative out of the most kitsch and clichéd forms of landscapes.

Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is open at the Art Institute through September 3.

Roy Lichtenstein. Excerpt from Three Landscapes. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Private Collection.