A sharp eye for pop art

Laurie Lambrecht brings focus to the swirling patterns in Roy Lichtenstein’s world

Laurie Lambrecht's 'Roy in Van Gogh's Bedroom' is on display at Victoria Munroe Fine Art. Laurie Lambrecht's "Roy in Van Gogh's Bedroom" is on display at Victoria Munroe Fine Art.
By Cate McQuaid
Globe Correspondent / November 17, 2010

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Laurie Lambrecht’s color photographs of Roy Lichtenstein’s studio document the great 20th-century pop artist at work. They are also works of art in themselves. The photos, on view at Victoria Munroe Fine Art on Newbury Street, please and challenge the eye on many levels.

Lambrecht was Lichtenstein’s executive assistant in the early 1990s. She brought her Hasselblad camera to work with her, and captured open notebooks, bits of commercial illustration clipped and arrayed together, and half-worked paintings. A motif arises with several variations of Lichtenstein’s “Girl With Tear,’’ comprising an eye, a tear, and a yellow lock of hair, which was inspired by Picasso’s series of weeping women. He sketches it, he photographs an image of it and tapes it on a heating duct beside two drawings, he paints a new version.

“Sketchbook With Surrealist Girl,’’ features a pair of eyeglasses lying across two open books — one featuring an earlier version of Lichtenstein’s “Girl With Tear’’ and the other sporting a sketch of that image. We get a sense of all the iterations, from commercial reproductions to drawings, that Lichtenstein experimented with. The glasses, a metaphor for the artist’s eye, reference André Kertesz’s famous 1926 photo of Mondrian’s glasses and pipe.

Lambrecht’s own eye falls on sharply composed patterns and arrangements, as in “Pencils,’’ in which several colored pencils, some boxed and others just piled together, lie on sheets of paper covered with diagonal lines. Other items disrupt the retinal buzz, but the piece implies that Lichtenstein’s studio was a world spinning with pattern. The square format of the Hasselblad prints emphasizes the spin, ramping up compositional tension with its symmetry.

Then there’s the layering of photographic reality against Lichtenstein’s graphically stylized vision. In “Roy in Van Gogh’s Bedroom,’’ the artist stands before his own large-scale take of Van Gogh’s famous interior. Lichtenstein’s version of the bedroom’s wooden floor is an eye-popping green wood grain pattern; the walls are covered with his trademark dots and diagonals; the chairs, here half-finished, have been updated to 20th-century modern design. The painting fills most of the frame, pulling the viewer into Lichtenstein’s flattened world, so it’s startling to see Lichtenstein himself, and not a cartoon, standing virtually inside his painted bedroom, with his back to us.

A second show, “From the Studio of Roy Lichtenstein: Photographs by Laurie Lambrecht,’’ opens tomorrow, in the Atelier Gallery at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester.

Fancy dress Half the fun of Carin Ingalsbe’s lush color photos of antique ballet costumes at Lanoue Fine Art is the story behind them. Some of the costumes from the vaults of the Royal Swedish Ballet, according to the gallery’s assistant director Ruthie Tredwell, are 300-year-old hand-me-downs from Swedish royalty. “Blue Stripe Jacket’’ is one of these. While cuffs and collar are in tatters, you can see the intricate hand-stitching that went into flowers on every button and down the chest.

Ingalsbe arranges a costume, then shoots many photographs up close, and puts the images together digitally so that details such as frayed silk are not lost. “Blue Firebird’’ is from the New York City Ballet’s 1949 debut production of “Firebird,’’ for which Marc Chagall oversaw the design of sets and costumes. Ingalsbe composes fabrics from the costume like a Chagall watercolor, swooping and soft. Here, the photograph becomes almost abstract, a record of glittering textures and tones that evoke a particular dance, a particular artist, more than they convey the contours of a costume.

Photos of ballet costumes may appeal to a particular audience. Ingalsbe complements that selection with equally sumptuous images of other antiques, such as two pairs of leather boxing gloves, plump and weathered. They all share traces of long-ago stories, dances long since danced and punches long since thrown, still somehow nestled in the stitches.

Shadow world Wade Aaron deals mostly in shadows — what they imply, and how they operate in space in his show at Milton Academy’s Nesto Gallery. For instance, “No Sol,’’ his installation in a corner of the gallery, riffs on Sol LeWitt’s “Corner Piece #4,’’ a latticework structure that projects out into the gallery space. Aaron describes the same shape, but in images that might be shadows of LeWitt’s work. There is no structure, just dark lines on the wall and floor, not unlike a LeWitt wall drawing, and playing tricks with the eye’s perception of space like an M.C. Escher print.

“A Condition of One’s Making,’’ the title piece, posits that a virtual wheel, 100 feet in diameter and filled with spinning, floating lines, is turning and its edge brushes up against the gallery wall. What we see is a projection of shadowy lines, like so many giant toothpicks, moving across the wall. Sometimes they cluster, with some shadows crisper than others suggesting volume. Sometimes they disappear completely. It’s a clever exploration of space, asking the viewer to imagine beyond the gallery walls. Still, it requires too much of an explanation; the piece’s visual impact doesn’t live up to its conceptual underpinnings.

Cate McQuaid can be reached at

LAURIE LAMBRECHT: In Roy Lichtenstein’s Studio: 1990-1992 At: Victoria Munroe Fine Art, 161 Newbury St., through Dec. 4. 617-523-0661,

CARIN INGALSBE: Humanity + Utility At: Lanoue Fine Art, 125 Newbury St., through Dec. 6. 617-262-4400,

WADE AARON: A Condition of One’s Making

At: Nesto Gallery, Milton Academy,

170 Centre St., Milton, through Dec. 11.

617-898-1798, ext. 2335,