be positive about negatives
Roy Lichtenstein established a reputation as an abstract
expressionist painter in the nineteen-fifties when it was
the dominant style. He produced large, splashy paintings
full of dribbles and splatters - standard for the time.
His painting was respected and his exhibitions did moder
ately well. Reviews were reasonable. He swam with the
Suddenly, in 1961, he changed direction overnight. He
discarded abstraction and began making large paintings
copied from comic-book illustrations. His new work was
hard-edged, brash, flat and expressionless, traced from
enlarged images. It was the result of a challenge from his
young son, who pointed to a Mickey Mouse comic book and
said, 'I bet you can't paint as good as that, eh, Dad?' So
Lichtenstein enlarged and copied one of the illustrations
exactly onto canvas.
Lichtenstein's friends hated it. It was their first encounter
with PopArt. They had neverseen anything like it. Itwasthe
opposite of the emotionally intense abstract expressionist
paintings they were used to. Comic-book illustrations were
worthless, shallow trash in their eyes, symbolising the worst
of American commercialism.
It was the strongest reaction a piece ofLichtenstein's work had
ever received. He realised it was better to have a powerful
response, even if negative, than the respectful yet muted
response he was used to. He produced more comic-book
paintings, exhibited them, and the critics savaged them.
Again, Lichtenstein reasoned that although negative, at least
he was achieving a strong reaction. Eventually his iconic Pop
Art, comic-book style struck achord with theyounger members
of the art world and cemented his place in the history of art.
If others respond strongly to something you've done, that's
positive - even if the reaction is negative. What should concern
you more than anything is no reaction whatsoever. The history
of culture is one of negativity towards new work and new
ideas, to a point where public annoyance can be seen as an
endorsement. To be a successful person you often have to
create a strongfoundation with the bricks othersthrow at you.
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