Source and Stimulus: Polke, Lichtenstein, Laing
Lévy Gorvy, London
March 6 - April 28, 2018
Source and Stimulus: Polke, Lichtenstein, Laing (2018) was devoted to the Ben-Day dot. Featuring exceptional works by this legendary trio of artists, it was the first exhibition to connect them based on their manipulation of the dot to transform imagery from the commercial sphere into fine art. By mimicking printing technology, Polke, Lichtenstein, and Laing signaled a return to representation after Abstract Expressionism, that was, simultaneously, rooted in abstraction. While each existed in a specific socio-political milieu and used different terminology to describe their practice—Polke manipulated Rasterbild dots in Germany while Laing toyed with half-tone dots in the United Kingdom, and Lichtenstein maintained the Ben-Day dot in America—they were united in the quest to create images of their time.
In the late nineteenth century, the American illustrator and publisher Benjamin Day developed a cost-effective printing technique that used dots in different densities to reproduce images on a mass scale. This process, named after its inventor, matured over the next century and was utilized to print newspapers, advertisements, and pulp comic books in the 1950s and ’60s. Sigmar Polke (Germany, 1941–2010), Roy Lichtenstein (United States, 1923–1997), and Gerald Laing (United Kingdom, 1936–2011)—along with the rest of the world—devoured this imagery daily and chose to reconfigure it in their works.
Taking its title from Laing’s 1964 exhibition at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, Source and Stimulus highlighted themes that recur in the works of all three artists, including the Space Race, sexual liberation, mass consumerism, and politics. This transatlantic consideration of the 1960s Pop Art movement was both technical and thematic, affirming the enduring relevance of the visual vocabulary they created in a time likewise shaped by sensationalism in the mass media.