Creativity - Part II
Collage for Still Life With Reclining Nude, Lichtenstein, 1997; now at the Katonah Museum of Art, New York
I want ... [my paintings] to look as though I never corrected anything and it just came that way. But I go through all sorts of contortions to make it look that way. Roy Lichtenstein
I recently had the pleasure of attending two exhibits at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York. The first is called "Lichtenstein in Process". This exhibit focuses on the creative steps Lichenstein took to create his paintings. Most often he would start with a quick pencil sketch. Next, he would make a more refined drawing, sometimes changing composition and adding or deleting elements in successive drawings. Lichtenstein would then create a new version of the drawing, this time adding color. He would project this drawing onto the wall to enlarge it and develop the shapes he needed for a collage of the piece. When he was finally satisfied with the composition of the collage piece, Lichenstein would translate it all into a painting, using tape and collage pieces to attain crisp edges.
It was fascinating to see the progression from initial idea to final piece, how Lichtenstein reworked an idea until he was satisfied with it. (In fact, it was downright encouraging to see visible pencil lines and erased areas in his sketches!) Some of the process almost seemed akin to paper applique. It was great to see an incredible piece of his Asian inspired artwork that is so different from his pop-art style artwork, yet still created with his signature Benday dots and lines. Even if Lichtenstein isn't your favorite artist, this is a wonderful exhibit for anyone interested in learning about the creative process of an artist.
Outside the museum, in the Marilyn M. Simpson Sculpture Garden, is another treat: four Chakaia Booker sculptures. Chakaia Booker creates amazing sculpture by manipulating rubber tire pieces. To my eye the pieces look organic, even though they've been created with a material so typically aligned with the mechanical. It was so interesting to me that each sculpture here had what appeared to be a front and a back, with different surface treatments for the reverse sides. Some of it looked like armor, while others looked like intertwined loops; some were pointy pieces that could be thought of as fur. In the museum literature it states that "... two [sculptures] suggest representation - human, floral, or marine - although Booker is committed to abstraction." Well, so much for the fur theory. But what I can tell you is that it was amazing to get up close and walk all around these marvelous sculptures. They are intricate and at times, delicate, even though rubber tires are not. I loved being able to see the sculpture from all sides because the views changed so much depending on your viewing perspective. The Garden gives each piece ample room to be seen alone, but it's small enough to take them in together as a unified exhibit.
I think it's cool that early in her artistic journey, Booker worked with fabric. Booker has terrific mastery of her chosen medium and is now also working with steel -- she created a steel wave for a public art commission in New Jersey last year -- and I find that incredible. What a creative journey!
Chakaia Booker: Take Out, 2008 (Full and detail)