So there is a website out there; it shows all of the images that Lichenstein cribbed his famous images from, and its making me rethink the whole comic book/benday dot thing.

I thought that the big and important thing about Lichenstein was his restructuring of high and low, working through this common images, rescuing them like a good and rich widow rescues orphans in Victorian melodrama. Now he seems like a common thief.

What was once abstract, archetypal, common to the American mindset has now moved to a specific object, and through that the images are more rarified. They are more rarified for other reasons, because the brunettes are turned to blondes, because the text is no longer integral to the images, because they are cleaner, brighter, larger.

I never realized this, but by taking these works out of an explicit narrative context he is not making a statement about how important comics are, but making a statement about how everything is transubstantiated into high end merchandise when the rituals of the gallerist are finished.

He is not the messy and chaos-ridden Rauschenberg, making dirty jokes with tyres, goats, clocks and Kennedy, and he is not Warhol, meditating between the Madonna and the Marilyn. He is a burgher who likes to go to the burlesque, in the words of the song by Pulp–where those comic artists “pretend you’ve got no money” and Lichenstien laughs and says,”Oh you’re so funny.”

I know that he rescued Romance Comics, that he made us realize the nature of the object, that the author is dead and the meanings multiply like carpet beetles on his corpse. But the original geniuses get screwed–and all of the theory doesn’t put bread on the table.

(Maybe i am looking at issues of ownership and originality too narrowly, there needs to be a recognition that texts need to be played with, that texts are only alive when they are being used, when they are being mucked around, brought to the high shelf and then the low shelf–and the care of technical mastery over theoretical conceit makes Lichenstien a way to approach vernacular imagery formally, something that has been neglected–do we still think of these works as anything more then kitsch–does the issues of violence/gender/sex/social text/the blonde mean anything more here because we expect art to be about these issues, and is it not in the romance comics because we expect them to be silly ? )

what i want to see now, that i did not care about before i saw the site, was the narrative of the comics that Lichenstein drew from, maybe because I didn’t assume that the work had narration.

website here