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Gary Lichtenstein Editions at MASS MoCA

Updated: Apr 10

Art New England I March/April 2024

MASS MoCA is currently home to an expansive, privately managed printing center, Gary Lichtenstein Editions. The gallery is clean and gorgeously lit. The walls display the creative labor of contemporary, up-andcoming, and established artists. Lichtenstein has been creating silkscreens for forty-five years with a diverse group of artists including Jessica Stockholder, Roz Chast, Cey Adams, and Shepard Fairey. The gallery offers printing services as well as assistance in marketing, exhibiting, and promotion.

A few commonalities between the artists Lichtenstein works with are striking color combinations, pop culture references, and a jocular sensibility. Another grouping falls under abstraction, with some pushing close to Op art. All are visually arresting. Lichtenstein bases his artist selection process on cultural happenings, commissions, and artistic serendipity.

Adams, former creative director at DefJam Recordings and graffiti artist, exemplifies one type of Lichtenstein's curation. The gallery exhibits a handful of his prints, including RUN DMC, a collaboration between Adams and the acclaimed photographer, Janette Beckman. CARWASH, a collaboration between Adams and Martha Cooper, another award-winning photographer, is a nearly photorealist view of an urban carwash which juxtaposes a graffiti spelling of "car wash;" with its more proper sign. It has an 80s vibe with its garish colors and funky beat. Another style altogether is the non-representational prints by Duane Slick. Threshold in Blue and Threshold in Red and Black are comprised of horizontal lines of varying width, length, and thickness. Some swaths resemble diaphanous fabric, while others have a viscous appearance, resembling Navajo rugs, or infinite perspectives in space.

Lichtenstein is himself an adept artist. The Butler Institute of American Art, in summer 2023, exhibited a virtual retrospective of decades of output, showcasing Lichtenstein's print collaborations, and highlighted his paintings, which they characterized as 'color field' inspirations. The influence of Southern California was apparent in the amorphous pastel nebulas, which have the efficacy of a Dan Flavin halo. In fact, Lichtenstein mentions how much the Light and Space movement inspired him.

Printmaking requires focus and an innate understanding of color and line. Lichtenstein is generous with his knowledge and encourages public curiosity and educational outreach. Richard Klein, former exhibitions director at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum observed that for Lichtenstein printing and art is an "adventure punctuated by frolicking detours rather than a series of premeditated tasks." – Bret Chenkin


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