Artists Apart: Roy Lichtenstein & Paul Reed
Artists Apart: Roy Lichtenstein & Paul Reed
Roy Fox Lichtenstein and Paul Reed are two American artists of notable worth - Artists Apart: Roy Lichtenstein & Paul Reed introduction. And while both were contemporaries, each were distinguished in their own fields. Roy Fox Lichtenstein, born in 1923, was known for his pop art and comic book styles of drawing. His works, while captured real life, is imbued a sense of artificiality and exaggeration. Paul Reed on the other hand is a few years older than Lichtenstein, having been born in 1919. Reed was known for his abstracts and geometric works of art.
Indeed while Reed and Lichtenstein were visual artists who shared the same period, they were different from each other. And while the two might make an unlikely pair for a comparative study, they still make for an interesting paper about painters who have been influenced by the abstract movement without necessarily making judgments on who is the better artist.
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Roy Fox Lichtenstein came from a middle class family and grew up in New York City. In High School he went to the Franklin School for Boys, in Manhattan. Since the school did not have an art department, Lichtenstein pursued his interest in art and design outside of school. It was his main preoccupation during his free time. Being a music lover as well, Lichtenstein drew portraits and still lives of musicians and musical instruments. Before entering college, Lichtenstein took formal art classes on the summer before his graduation from high school. From New York, Lichtenstein went to Ohio State University where he took up Fine Arts. During World War II, Lichtenstein put his studies on hold to serve three years in the army. After his stint as an American soldier, Lichtenstein went back to his art classes and met Hoyt L. Sherman, the art professor who would have a great impact on Lichtenstein’s work and perhaps to a great extent, set the course for Lichtenstein’s success in the art world. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Lichtenstein went straight to graduate school and simultaneously became an art instructor in the same university. He stayed at Ohio State University for ten years before moving to Cleveland. During these times, Lichtenstein traveled to New York regularly, keeping odd jobs while trying to establish a niche in the art world.
In the 1950’s, Lichtenstein was still trying to define his own unique style. Initially he was into the cubist movement, rendering cubist interpretations of existing art works, but with very little success. He moved back to New York in 1957 and went back to teaching art classes once again to augment his meager income. In New York Lichtenstein shifted to Abstract Expressionism, again with very little success. Finally in 1960, Lichtenstein made a move that would change his life. He went to Rutgers University to teach and there he met a co-teacher, Allan Kaprow, who would greatly influence Lichtenstein. From thereon, Lichtenstein drew using hard-edged and well defined figures and used Benday Dots to provide color and texture. He produced six more works using the same style, drawing characters from eclectic sources such as magazines, advertisements, cartoons, even gum wrappers, which at that time was also featured drawings and comic strips to make it more attractive to the market. Lichtenstein was not prepared for the enthusiastic response of the public to his new style. In 1961, an art gallery began displaying Lichtenstein’s colorful and intense works. A year after he had a one-man exhibit where the entire collection was sold long before the exhibit opened. Indeed, Lichtenstein has arrived and the art world is at his feet. After this resounding success, he left teaching to work on his art full time, as was his original dream. Lichtenstein passed away in 1997, an icon of modern American pop art.
Lichtenstein may have been a bigger name in the art world, but Paul Allen Reed is notable in his own right. Reed was born in Washington D.C. and attended San Diego State College in California and the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. Reed is an abstract artist, drawing shapes, rather than real life objects. While Lichtenstein was not successful doing cubism and abstracts, Reed’s attempts at the abstract form were fairly successful and he has a loyal following of patrons who continue to support and appreciate his work.
Paul Allen Reed is known for his geometric paintings, using shapes and colors to depict a form. Most of his works are intended to be displayed as is, without the need for frames, as is characteristic of most works of the genre. A unique characteristic of Reed’s works is that they are meant to be displayed alongside one another, like a mosaic or puzzle pieces, depending on how the owners want them displayed. For almost a decade, from 1962 to 1971, Paul Reed became the Art Director for the U.S. Peace Corps. Soon after his stint at the Peace Corps, Reed went back to his old school to join the faculty of the Corcoran School of Art.
Both Roy Lichtenstein and Paul Allen Reed were products of the abstract movement. The abstract movement, which rose in the early 20th century is characterized by art works that are non-representational of objects in real life. Rather than capturing the form, abstract artists tried to capture the essence of things by using shapes and colors. Often the object or subject being painted is barely recognizable, with the interpretation solely lying on the artists themselves. Most experts consider the abstract form as a metaphor, and the artists “engaged in the construction of meaning.” (Kleiner, 1997, p. 78)
Roy Lichtenstein initially was a proponent of the abstract movement, with cubism as his primary style. Only after making several attempts as an abstract painter did Roy Lichtenstein shifted gears and changed his style into what eventually made him famous. On the other hand, Paul Allen Reed remained faithful to his non-representational art form. While their styles eventually diverged, the lives of Reed and Lichtenstein share some similarities. Both of them have been formally trained in their craft, earning their bachelor’s and post-graduate degrees in the Fine Arts. They also became art instructors in the schools they have graduated from.
In terms of their work, Roy Fox Lichtenstein’s famous pop art paintings were a natural by-product of the original school that he came from. His hard-edge style and use of Benday Dots took its inspiration from the geometric abstraction movement. The use of Benday Dots set Lichtenstein’s work apart from other artists. In printing, the use of Benday Dots was a technique employed to approximate certain colors by using a combination of different colored dots. The effects which can be produced using this technique is varied, depending on the size, intensity, and positioning of the dots. Akin to pointillism but without its dreamy, surreal effect, Lichtenstein’s prints and drawings using Benday Dots are very intense and vivid. This technique can still be found in comic books, where the technique is combined with distinct outlines or what is also called as hard-edge, reminiscent of a Lichtenstein classic. (Steiner, 1988, p. 145) Lichtenstein’s main media for painting are oils and a type of acrylic paint called Magna, which dries very fast. Paul Reed uses watercolors and chalks for his abstract pieces.
It should be noted as well that unlike Lichtenstein who reinterpreted a lot of existing works, Paul Reed’s works are unique in the sense that they have not been copied from an original. In fact, some critics of Lichtenstein dislike the fact that he merely reinterprets previous works of other artists. Paul Reed does not have that problem because all his works are purely based from his imagination. However, it is also worth mentioning that by Lichtenstein’s “sheer power of the medium”, he imbued his “copies” with a unique and singular character that is unmistakably Lichtenstein. (Grosenick, 2004, p. 50)
Based on their lives and their works, it may be said that Lichtenstein and Reed shared the same roots, but while one stayed true to his beginnings, the other dared to explore new ways of expressions. Both were equally successful and the world is better off because of them.
Paul Reed’s Sample Works
Roy Lichtenstein’s Sample Works
Composition III, 1965
Magna on canvas
46 x 48 inches (116.8 x 121.9)
Roy_Lichtenstein_Whaam.jpg (576 × 243 pixel, file size: 266 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963.
Cernuschi, C. (1997). Not an Illustration But the Equivalent: a cognitive approach to abstract expressionism. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 78.
Grosenick, U. (2004) Pop Art. Taschen p. 50.
Steiner, W. (1988). Pictures of Romance: Form Against Context in Painting and Literature. University of Chicago Press. p. 145.