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Wall Explosion III
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Wall Explosion III
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About the item

Erupting in a vibrant cacophony of color and form, Wall Explosion III vehemently exemplifies the juxtaposition of highly charged popular imagery with flawless formal execution which distinguishes the very best of Roy Lichtensteins celebrated Pop oeuvre. Radiating outward from the central yellow blast, the swirling clouds of crisply executed Ben-day dots and sleek steel apertures are utterly explosive in their inherent dynamism and elemental force, gripping each viewer in its pictorial exuberance and underlying conceptual gravitas. Executed in 1965, at the very apogee of the Pop era, the present work is an early exemplar of Lichtensteins investigations into the medium of sculpture; presenting a fascinating tension between the stability of the steel object and the fleeting nature of an explosion itself, Wall Explosion III realizes the dynamism of Lichtensteins iconic comic book paintings in three dimensions. Composed of interlocked sheets of enamel on steel, the present work is one of six unique Explosion sculptures from 1965 which, in their sharp focus and clear acuity for such simplified Modernist precepts as line, color, and shape, exemplify the artists complete mastery of the mechanics of impact culled from the comic-book-derived iconography. With other works from the limited group held in such collections as the Museum Ludwig, Cologne the Tate Modern, London, Wall Explosion III epitomizes Lichtensteins revolutionary appropriation of popular culture as lenses for contemporary society, merely through the simple act of re-presentation. As is archetypal of the artists most resonant masterworks, Wall Explosion III harnesses the inherent power of culturally pervasive signs and symbols to reference and evoke elements of contemporary society with striking clarity. Lichtenstein achieved significant critical acclaim in the 1950s and early 1960s when he assertively challenged the preeminent aesthetic priorities and core artistic ambitions which his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries held paramount. Though intentionally universal in their imagery, content, and legibility, Lichtensteins comic paintings of the early 1960sin particular, those that address war through highly idealized narrative structures represent a pivotal moment in the artists practice when he began to tackle new subject matter, leaving behind the mundane to address some of the most pressing issues from the world around him. Describing this period within the artists work, scholar Paul Schimmel explains, Lichtensteins works of the early 1960s exhibit a keen interest in action. He paints about process and not with itThe early cartoon paintings of romance and war are action packed with water, wind, and explosions. Seeing these worksprovides an insight into this critical period of transition in his work. (Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art (and travelling), Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition 1955-62, 1993, p. 46) Reflecting upon the particular appeal of imagery sourced from comic-books, Lichtenstein himself noted, All that time I was interested in anything I could use as a subject that was emotionally strongusually love, war, or something that was highly-charged and emotional subject matter. Also, I wanted the subject matter to be opposite to the removed and deliberate painting techniques. Cartooning itself usually consists of very highly-charged subject matter carried out in standard, obvious and removed techniques. (Graham Bader, Hall of Mirrors: Roy Lichtenstein and the Face of Painting in the 1960s, Cambridge, 2010, p. 97) Presented in the context of mid-1960s America, a period defined by heighted anxiety in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis and ever-growing tensions in Vietnam, Lichtensteins paintings and subsequent sculptures of comic-book based war scenes allowed the artist to consider emotionally charged subject matter within the Pop vernacular, effectively addressing some of the most anxiety-producing associations of his time head-on. In their engagement with issues of international conflict, these works also retain a sly autobiographical undercurrent: initially enlisting in the army in 1943, Lichtenstein began his combat operations in France in 1945, continuing tactical operations in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland before returning home to Fort Dix in 1946. Informing, if not inspiring, such renowned paintings as Mr. Bellamy, 1961, Live Ammo (Take Cover), 1962, and Whaam!, 1963, these comic-book depictions of war capture a cultural moment particular to the 1960s, subtly infusing the subjective significance of his seemingly objective scenes with charged meaning.\nAlthough Lichtensteins signature renderings of comic-book explosions appear as early as Blam from1962 in the permanent collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, it wasn't until 1965 that the artist began to explore the aesthetic possibilities of the shape in its own right. As Diane Waldman noted, "Lichtenstein's sculpture is an extension of his painting. With enamel, Lichtenstein accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete." (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1971, p. 23) Describing the impetus behind his sculptural works, Lichtenstein succinctly noted, "I was interested in putting two-dimensional symbols on a three-dimensional object." (John Coplans, Roy Lichtenstein, 1967, p. 16) Bold in ambition and scale, in the present work Lichtenstein has extracted a fragment of highly dynamic imagery and brilliantly flattened it with the utmost sophistication, rendering only its most fundamental and basic formal qualities before inviting his blast back into the three-dimensional space it originally inhabited. Rendered in the highly simplified color palette of red, yellow, blue, and white, the bold lines of Lichtensteins sculpture are imbued with a distinctly feverish energy, pushing its impact beyond the clean lines, primary colors, and simple shapes which define the present work from a formal perspective. The sharp, simplified clarity of the sculpture, combined with the foreshortened perspectival space, powerfully evoke the two-dimensional nature of the artists source material while, simultaneously, introducing his signature motif into an entirely new dimension.  In the precision of its crisp steel shapes, thick black outlines, and solid fields of saturated color, Lichtenstein infuses his rendering of a split-second combustion with an air of mechanical perpetuity into; in turn, his eponymous Ben-Day dots, perfectly regimented and crisply delineated, invest the sculpture with a volatile sense of tension. Portrayed so exuberantly and vibrantly that the viewer cannot help but expect a resounding KABOOOM! mere moments later, Wall Explosion III is an entirely captivating crystallization of the themes which fueled, informed, and defined  Lichtensteins most groundbreaking and iconic masterworks.
US
NY, US
US

medium

Porcelain enamel on steel

creator

Lichtenstein, Roy

condition

This sculpture is in very good condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at +1 (212) 606-7254 for the report prepared by Jackie Wilson of Wilson Conservation, LLC. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

83 1/2 by 80 by 5 in. 212.1 by 203.2 by 12.7 cm.

provenance

The Pace Gallery, New York Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1986

artist_range_end

1997

artist_range_start

1923

creator_nationality_dates

1923 - 1997


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

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