Techniques and strategies of commercial printing are fundamental to the visual language of Roy Lichtenstein’s celebrated Pop style. The Benday dots and regularized stripes he used for tone, the clarifying black outlines, the flat areas of bold primary color, and the simplification and schematization of his compositions are all elements embraced by consumer culture to create the inescapable printed imagery aimed at mass audiences.
The subject matter that first brought Lichtenstein’s work to public attention was appropriated from comic strips, but his later themes owed their visual syntax to themes from “high” culture, particularly the history of modern art. Illustrated here are examples of his interpretations of German Expressionism and Art Deco, as well as the time-honored motif of landscape in art. In every case, his sense of irony is coupled with a strikingly positive spirit.
Printmaking was integral to Lichtenstein’s practice from the time he was a student, and in the early 1950s he regularly entered regional print exhibitions. But it was his Pop style that attracted the professional workshops established in the 1960s, and his work was instrumental in the renaissance of American printmaking at that time. His mechanized aesthetic was particularly in keeping with the technical expertise offered at Gemini G.E.L., and his early collaborations there were undertaken with Kenneth Tyler, a printer he continued to work with at Tyler Graphics. Donald Saff, then of Graphicstudio, was another technical wizard who urged Lichtenstein to make prints. In all he created some three hundred fifty printed images, primarily with a series format that echoed his work in painting. In addition to traditional prints, he created ephemeral projects in the spirit of Pop art, like wallpaper, gift wrap, and paper plates, and also made many benefit prints and posters for social and political causes.
Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 168–169.
Printmaking, and in particular screenprint, was the basic medium for Andy Warhol’s celebrated work on canvas and paper. While a prize-winning commercial artist in the 1950s, he devised a printing process of blotting outline drawings in ink from one surface to another. In a whimsical book of fashionable shoe styles, done at the time he was head of advertising at a shoe company, his blotted drawings were reproduced and then hand-colored by a team of friends.
Although Warhol adopted a bland, detached persona, he was an extremely energetic artist and self-promoter who played a significant role in redirecting the course of art. Rather than deriving his work from subjective personal feelings or idealist visions for abstraction, Warhol embraced popular culture and commercial processes. He eventually set up his own print-publishing company called Factory Additions, issuing portfolios of his signature themes. For Marilyn, he created ten highly variable portraits, exploiting the possibilities in screenprinting for shifting colors and off-register effects. By celebrating the seemingly impervious veneer of glamour and fame, but acknowledging its darker inner complexity, these prints reveal Warhol’s subtle grasp of American culture.
Warhol did not participate in the collaborative printshop system established in America in the 1960s, but his work contributed decisively to what has been characterized as a “print boom” at that time. Through the course of his career, he made nearly eight hundred printed images on paper, about half published in traditional editions. He was also a surprisingly experimental printmaker, issuing hundreds of trial proofs and unique variants. The compositions that make up Camouflage, his last portfolio, constitute a playful commentary on abstraction. Through manipulation of scale and color from sheet to sheet, Warhol alters the visual impact of the military fabric used for concealment. In examples on canvas, he also superimposes his face, linking self-portraiture with disguise.
Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 162–163.