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 This is Lichtenstein's first major exhibition since his 1997 death. Above: his 1962 work 'The Ring (Engagement).'
Manuel Balce Ceneta/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/3/2013


Some may question whether there is emotional depth or any concern with social issues in such abstractions, yet the works are not superficial. There is a system to this simplicity of form. As the dot is one point in a line, Lichtenstein, with his flat surface, is focused on the outermost perceivable layer of reality.

This idea is explored in his late series of "mirror" works, a subject that represents technical virtuosity and reflects nothing but light. In his "Self-Portrait" (1978), the artist's face is replaced by such a a mirror. What does this mean--if it means anything?

If the themes depicted in his still-lifes of the immediate familiar and domestic seem far from original, Lichtenstein has said that what he was after was not "drawing the object itself only drawing a depiction of the object--a kind of crystallized symbol of it."

As Lichtenstein's works meets at the intersection of commercial and fine art, the question remains: Is it art?

The answer might be in the the last gallery, where the dots and styles of a lifetime converge in a series of landscapes inspired by Chinese works painted over a thousand years ago during the Sung Dynasty. In these highly stylized scenes, Lichtenstein distilled the originals into codes and rules before translating them into his own style, with his signature technique of hand-painted but mechanical-looking dots. In those final works, Lichenstein's dot secures his connection to the timeless traditions of art.

Sheila Wickouski, a former Fredericksburg resident, is a freelance reviewer for The Free Lance-Star.

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What: 'Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective' When: Through Jan. 13. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Where: The National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue NW, Washington Cost: Free Info: 202/737-4215; nga.gov