“I like Warhol better, so sue me”

Responding to the recent post about Lichtenstein, Metabunker-denizen Andreas Gregersen writes:

“Cambell is right (no?):

But yes, a lot of the anonymous stuff is probably more skilful.

Was RL a greater “recontextualist” (cf. “the essence of the exercise” noted in Campbell’s piece) than Johns, Rauschenberg and/or Warhol? And: When the critics talk about the craft of RL’s work, they almost always focus om his ability to twist a composition, but I think Barsalou’s swipe file more than suggests that there are (rather) too many instances where both line and composition are copied directly and not really appropriated. Granted, “Girl with Ball” is smart, but it seems to me increasingly like a lucky Picasso-punch…

And, yeah, I like Warhol better, so sue me”

Yeah, I think Campbell is right. Whether a lot of the source material is more skilful or not is a moot point. I think Lichtenstein’s pictures are more interesting than most of it (mind you, I’m not saying he’s a greater artist than Kirby – far from it), and that he achieves more with what he takes from it than most of those comics did. Yes, he stays close to the basic composition of many of his sources, but what is interesting is that he transforms not only their context – which he does amazingly – but their very material nature. He turns them into rather painterly paintings, and the fact that they reproduce extraordinarily well does not change this. Seen in the flesh, one realizes that they are not merely strong designs, but rather painstaking and very smart transmogrifications across media. That was my point.

warhol_dick_tracy.jpgAn interesting difference between Lichtenstein and Warhol – who like you say – is also a great recontextualizer, is that the latter mostly works in reproducible graphic media, while Lichtenstein’s paintings are unique pieces. Rauschenberg I do not really see as a “recontextualist” in the same way – his appropriations are subsumed under his figuration to a much greater extent than in the work of Lichtenstein or Warhol, where they are still salient parts of the point. The same goes for Johns, who – in any case – is more of a straight painter than any of the others.

Incidentally, check this 1960 crayon piece out. It is by Warhol and does something similar to Lichtenstein, but with far less iconic force.

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