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Lichtenstein of the Week

With Roy Lichtenstein's most famous works—representational appropriations of advertising, comic books, and the history of art—he rebuked his own early abstract output and the visceral expressionism of many of his New York peers. Starting in 1978, though, Roy returned to the idea of pure abstraction with his Perfect/Imperfect series. The works in this series share a compositional similarity in their use of line. Roy's game-like idea for a simple and meaningless way to create an abstraction was to draw a continuous line, stopping at the edge of the canvas, and continuing back into the canvas at a different angle. Eventually, the line connects to where it started.

This process most specifically describes the perfect paintings, where the line always stops precisely at the edge of the canvas.  The imperfect paintings contain "mistakes," where the line "accidentally" extends beyond the edge of the canvas. These mistakes were supported by framed triangles of canvas grafted onto the edge of the main rectangular canvas. Leave it to Lichtenstein to work so hard to make a mistake.

This series represents not just a stylistic departure for Lichtenstein, but one of process and meaning as well. He created his representational works by projecting sketches (copied from source material) onto a canvas as a guide for the paint he laid down. The compositions of the Perfect/Imperfect works originated with Roy. More radically, Roy was happy to cede these paintings to the realm of decor, comparing them to the artwork you'd see hanging above a couch on the set of a sitcom. Roy seems to have embraced this idea early on, as works in the Perfect/Imperfect style appear as wall decoration in his Artist's Studios series of the early-to-mid 1970s (see Artist's Studio with Model or Artist's Studio "Foot Medication"), several years before he produced a singular freestanding work in the style.

So, if for some reason you hate representational artwork but still love benday dots, the Perfect/Imperfect paintings are for you. See 'em before September 3!

Roy Lichtenstein. Imperfect Painting, 1986. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Collection Kenneth and Judy Dayton.