Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape with Philosopher, 1996

Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape with Philosopher, 1996

Surprise! Near the end of his career, Lichtenstein turned his dots to breathtaking use in a series inspired by works from the Song Dynasty (960-1279).  Several are on display now at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of a sweeping retrospective.

He abandons his traditional primary colors in favor of a sky blue palette. Transforms his flat graphic style to meditate on depth, distance and the illusion of spaciousness. Eternity floating before our eyes.

Stripped down, the tight pixel pattern harmonizes with the spare eastern aesthetic. The graduated dots, fifteen different sizes, create scale and distance. With the tiny orange philosopher as the only figure to give us a non-dot reference.

Clouds, mountains and plunging gorges implied with staccato points. Forces your eye to connect them, read in between them. Merge the black space; eliminate the white space. Feel the tension between form and formlessness.

I enjoy the knurling tree, floating rootless, just as much as the orange seed speck of a philosopher. I wonder if together we contemplate his smallness and impermanence in the face of epic mother nature. Maybe that craggy mountain holds both our fates.