October 11, 2015


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Lot 308: Roy Lichtenstein

Lot 308: Roy Lichtenstein

Modern Head #1 (from Modern Head Series)

4-color woodcut on Japanese Hoshi paper
#62 of 100
Published and printed by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles
Signed and dated in graphite lower right margin of sheet with Gemini G.E.L. blindstamp; edition lower left
Image: 20.25" x 12.5"; Sheet: 24" x 19"; Frame: 25.5" x 20.75"
Gemini G.E.L. #31.23
Provenance: Murray "Mickey" A. Gribin, Los Angeles, California;
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California
Literature: The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1948-1993. M. Corlett. 1994. #91.
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Price Realized: $16,875
Inventory Id: 20307

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The Modern Head Series of 1970 was one of Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923–1997) signal endeavors in the early mature period of his artistic career. In the mid-1960s, he moved away from taking direct inspiration for his imagery from sources such as comic books and product packaging, toward abstract painting inflected by references to Cubism, Constructivism, and Art Deco design. Lichtenstein was deeply taken by Art Deco, or Machine Age, aesthetics, which he facetiously called "Cubism for the home." This interest first manifested itself in his artwork in 1966, in both a poster for that year’s performance season at the Lincoln Center in New York, and in a composition titled Modern Painting with Bolt. In the latter, Lichtenstein "scrupulously orchestrated an interplay of vertical and diagonals, curves and straight edges, and dynamic and static forms," writes art historian Carol Lanchner. "The result [is] a vigorous, handsomely contrived abstraction of evident Art Deco heritage."

In the middle of this stylistic period, Lichtenstein was inspired by Alexej von Jawlensky’s group of constructivist paintings of heads, presented in the 1968 show Serial Imagery at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum), to create his Modern Head Series. Lichtenstein worked with Gemini G.E.L., the Los Angeles art printmaking firm that, though founded only in 1966, had already garnered wide acclaim for its technical expertise. It is particularly noteworthy that each work in the Modern Head Series was produced using a different and distinct printing method. Those employed include woodcut, lithography, linecut, embossing, and the use of a die-cut paper overlay. Though conceived and printed as a cohesive whole, the Modern Head Series is now rarely found intact.

Lanchner, Carolyn, and Roy Lichtenstein. Roy Lichtenstein. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009. 18–19. Print. Breuer, Karin. "Roy Lichtenstein Prints from Gemini G.E.L." De Young FAMSF. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1997. Web. 18 Aug 2015."
Modern Head #1 was the artist's first woodcut with a print publisher, and his only work in this medium between 1959 and 1980.