Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein currently has a show on at the Tate Modern. While the public is intimately familiar with his work, what they may be unaware of is that many of his images were directly “appropriated” from comic artists like Irv Novick, Russ Heath, Jack Kirby, John Romita and Joe Kubert, who received no fee or credit.
Is this an act of brilliant recontexturalisation? The elevation of commercial “low” art to “high” art? Art world snobbery? Artistic licence? Gallery shortsightedness? Cultural annexation? Or something else entirely?
Image Duplicator, a new show at Orbital Comics in London which opens later this week, brings together real comic-book artists and other “commercial artists” – illustrators, designers, cartoonists – to ask these kinds of questions and share their views, via their work.
Each artist was asked to “re-reappropriate” one of the comic images Lichtenstein used: to go back to the source material and twist it into something interesting and original, and in the process to comment on the act of appropriation.
Money raised from selling prints and originals will be donated to the Hero Initiative, which helps down-on-their-luck comic book veterans: www.heroinitiative.org.
Take Back the Art!
“I’ve spoken out in the past about my dislike, on both aesthetic and ethical grounds, of the “appropriation” of comic strip images by ‘pop art’, says Dave Gibbons. “The feeling amongst the comics community is pretty much unanimous: we feel patronised, and we feel that several of our revered elders have been, frankly, robbed.
“To us, their creativity and skilled labour has been discounted by considering their work as being merely, in the jargon of the art world, “found”, and they have received no credit or recompense for what amounts to celebrated and expensive copies of their creations.
“The current exhibition of such images at the Tate Modern in London has prompted a new consideration of these matters, and I was invited to speak on a recent TV show about my views.
”However, it was Rian Hughes, another vociferous critic of the art establishment’s attitude who came up with the brilliant idea of our comic community using its own medium to make the point. Under the title Image Duplicator, the response has been very heartening and we are staging an exhibition of several dozen images in the gallery space at Orbital Comics.
“Naturally, I’m very pleased to support this project and have created an image for exhibition and subsequent auction sale. (Artwork above).
“Entitled “WHAAT?”, it’s framed in diptych format, measuring 41″ x 94”, and is my very own “re-reappropriation” of an image originally created by Irv Novick.
“Whilst he and nearly all of the artists mistreated in the past are no longer with us to benefit, all profits from the Image Duplicator venture will, appropriately, be donated to the Hero Initiative.
“This is a US-based charity which exists to help living comic artists and their families who find themselves in financial difficulty due to age or ill-health.
“So, not only will IMAGE DUPLICATOR make a cultural statement on behalf of the medium which we love but will also have a positive and practical benefit for those in our community who have given of their creativity for often poor rewards.”
Prints of WHAAT? will be available as a signed and numbered edition up to 16th May. Dave Gibbons will also be signing copies at the IMAGE DUPLICATOR launch night at Orbital Comics. After this date, the print is still available in an unsigned, unnumbered edition, but the numbered and signed version will be no longer available.
All prints will be shipped and dispatched week commencing 20th May. For print sales and enquires, please email email@example.com
• Image Duplicator: 16 to 31 May 2013, Orbital Comics Gallery, 8 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JA
Opening night: 16 May 7.30 – 9.30pm
Tel: 0207 240 0591
Image: Dave Gibbons after Irv Novick
Curated by Rian Hughes and Jason Atomic
Digital prints kindly provided by Mark Blamire at www.print-process.com
Prints of the images areavailable for purchase: http://tinyurl.com/ckxtjwf
For catalogue enquiries, please email infoATdevicefonts.co.uk