Whilst Imperfect was a reaction to Perfect (1985), the overall aesthetic is similar in both series, however these are two distinct series that carry very different meanings, so let’s start with what’s similar about them, and what makes these series such a natural pairing.
Visually, in both Perfect and Imperfect series Lichtenstein used the pairing of geometric shapes with bright colours, in which so many American Pop artists saw the potential. Of course, Lichtenstein was the King of these artists, alongside contemporaries such as Andy Warhol. Similarly Lichtenstein used the same techniques for both; the Perfect and Imperfect series were printed on 4-ply Museum board, combined with woodcut and screen-print, and all but one contains metalized Mylar collage elements.
Lichtenstein deviated from his usual practice of doing preliminary sketches, instead plotting the geometric angles on a graph and using that as jumping off point. The color printing of the first sections of both series at Gemini G.E.L., followed by woodcutting, printing large flat areas several times to get the dense colors. Thereafter the silver and galvanized Mylar were prepared in sheets and hand-cut for the collage sections, before a screen-print coating was applied to the verso of each of the boards for a stabilizing effect.
So if aesthetically prints from each series are easy to confuse, how did they go on to carry such opposing messages? The difference between the series is subtle, but rearranges our entire perspective once understood. Whilst the triangles in the prints from Perfect intersect with each other in tetris-like perfection, the opposite is true in prints from Imperfect, where the ordered boundaries celebrated in the Perfect series are subverted.
Lichtenstein himself best describes the effect this difference has, by comparing his creative method behind each series. Saying of Perfect ‘the idea is that you can start with the line anywhere, and follow the line along, and draw all the shapes in the painting and return to the beginning’, he explains the relative ease with which he created sensical, neat geometric arrangements within the confines of the square canvas.
With Imperfect, however, Lichtenstein’s approach was different: ‘the line goes out beyond the rectangle of the painting, as though missing the edge somehow’, he said. Whilst Perfect celebrates colour, multimedia and bold geometry as parts of an ordered whole, Imperfect breaks free of the mathematical precision.
The overall effect of the Imperfect prints is definitely most pronounced when you understand their roots; being born out of the Perfect series, prints from Imperfect go on to do something challenging and profound. The overall effect is - even though we say so ourselves, as proud sellers of Lichtenstein’s work – fantastic, both visually and semantically. It is the artist at the peak of his ingenuity: pairing the boldest colors of the palette with his iconic manipulation of shape, and creating something magnificent and meaningful.
We currently have 14 Lichtenstein prints from across the course of his career in our gallery; please feel free to contact us if you wish to make an inquiry, or book to view the collection in our Maddox Street Gallery.