The excellent Artist Rooms initiative, which has an impressive collection of contemporary art touring the UK in single-artist exhibitions, has brought Roy Lichtenstein to Wolverhampton. The Wolverhampton Art Gallery, itself a fine example of a gallery and museum working hard to engage an audience, thus has three rooms of seminal pop-art on display although, should you enter the building through the wrong door (as we did) you might find yourself as confused as the letter writers demanding to know why £100,000 of taxpayers money was used to secure “In the Car” for the nation.
There are three rooms and, broadly, three themes in the exhibition. We look at the reflection series of works through which Lichtenstein obscured or revisited previous themes and works; we see a selection of homage works, including some complex takes on Monet’s water lillies; and, lastly, we have ‘In the Car’ and the confusion and fury around its value (in 1980) when it entered the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. As well as the expected angry letters to the press we are also shown correspondence from potential funders of the purchase, including one advising that an application for more conservative eighteenth century art would be likely to be more successful.
Obviously Lichtenstein, and indeed Pop Art as a whole, retains something of a marmite character. But this exhibition does its job remarkably well. A neat selection of works, some strong themes and then let the art speak for itself. And, despite the maze that is the entrance to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, a steady flow of folk finding their way to look – which is exactly what Artist Rooms is all about.