It's a blistering-hot July in Chicago and the cacophony of sounds in the city has reached a crescendo. In addition to the everyday sounds of the city—sirens, the clanking of the El, car horns—summer brings fireworks on the 4th, the booming music of Lollapalooza, and the screech of jets at the Air & Water Show. Loud noises startle and then are forgotten, but when I walk through Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective I enjoy how the artist, drawing on the visual language of comics we've discussed before, captures the very moment a loud sound bursts forth.
Varoom! (1963), one of several "Explosions" on display, uses Lichtenstein's signature primary colors against a subdued dotted background to visually communicate the explosive force of one millisecond in time. Specs of black and white crackle, disrupting the quiet monotony of the black-and-white background. The text that lends itself to the title of the painting—"VAROOM!"—is in big, eye-catching block letters that are jumbled by the jarring event taking place.
Lichtenstein created Explosions around the same time he was painting his now-famous War and Romance series. Even though both draw from comic books, the Explosions focus on the details rather than the narrative.
Varoom! and the many other works on display are hot with action and drama, but lucky for us they can currently be enjoyed in our cool, quiet, contemplative galleries.