Using the female body as a mechanism to explore deeper themes of power, female representation, fetishism and objectification, usually in an ironic and cheerful way, Lichtenstein’s work embodies the very paradox she is trying to explore. Her work consciously plays with the boundaries of power, commercialization, consumerism, fantasy and propriety, provoking tensions that challenge the viewer to confront his or her own gaze.
Fascinated by the mass-production and fetishization of hyper-sexualized Japanese figurines, Lichtenstein’s first series manipulated the presentation and context of mass-produced anime dolls in order to imbue them with new associations and richer meaning. By taking these lifeless figures out of their plastic boxes and by placing them within the white cube of the gallery, Lichtenstein explores both the commodification of the female body while simultaneously examining how these forms change in the public vs. private realms. Through these vignettes, the girls are placed on a stage for public inspection and the viewer can voyeuristically watch these girls examine and perfect both themselves and their lives, exposing the extremism of a consumer culture dominated by western ideals of beauty and lifestyle.
Building on that initial series, Lichtenstein’s current series of “word sculptures” examine the pornographic world of Japanese-inspired comic books. Creating her own imagined fantastical landscapes infused with a highly sexualized environment, Lichtenstein places these appropriated heroines in scenes that are reminiscent of Renoir’s, Cezanne’s or Picasso’s “nude bathers”; scenes that harken back to a time of “female as muse.”
Layering these images behind a thick buffer of acrylic, the pieces take a critical distance from their own content and in fact, beg the viewer to do the same. Through this thick lens, the viewer is asked to engage with and question whether these hyper-sexualized women are depicted solely to satisfy an insatiable male-dominated gaze, or if such a theory is too narrow, neglecting to address the complex nature of women and their desire to enjoy their sexuality, enjoy their bodies and their desire to be desirable. Through the strength of her images, Lichtenstein provokes the viewer to confront their own reactions to these hypersexualized images-whether it be feelings of shock, disgust, power, vulnerability, shame or lust-asking the viewer to decide what they are comfortable with, and why?
Following her last solo exhibitions in New York City, Lichtenstein received much attention from international press. The artist’s work is already in some of the homes of the most important art collectors, and held in private collections in New York, Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, Nice, London, Paris, Madrid, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.