Ten Minutes with Gary Lichtenstein
Gary Lichtenstein is an anomaly in the art world. A Ridgefield resident for ten years, Lichtenstein is well known for his own works of color expressionism but is also a highly sought-after screen print (better known as silk screen) artist who has collaborated with world renowned artists including Robert Indiana, Robert Cottingham, and Charles Hinman. Lichtenstein’s work has been shown everywhere from MoMA to exclusive private collections.
What is silkscreen printing?
Silkscreen is a painting technique used to make prints. Using a stencil process, an image or design is superimposed on a fine mesh screen, using different screens for different colors and designs.
What is the difference between a limited edition silkscreen and an original work of art?
Each silkscreen I do is an original even though it may be based on an original painting. You’re not reproducing a piece of artwork—that’s what a poster would be. You’re reinterpreting what the artist has already done and making it into something new. And each one we print is a little different.
Is your input always well received by the other artists?
No. But for most artists, the opportunity to work outside their own studio, with someone on their own work is so rare. They welcome the opportunity to collaborate.
How did you get into silkscreening?
While I was at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1971 I apprenticed with legendary rock-and-roll poster artist Bob Fried, a pioneer in silkscreen production. It’s a technique that gave us a back door into artists’ studios. Once I figured out that I liked it, then I said well, there must be a way to earn a living doing this.
You’re an artist yourself in a more traditional sense, but silkscreening is also your art and passion. Is it difficult to let the other artists do whatever they want with your medium?
Sometimes, but it’s the collaboration that I love to get involved in. Sometimes they think they just paid you to make their print, and that can be difficult. That’s why I’ve always been very clear about maintaining my own art. It gives me my own venue to not get frustrated.
What are the commercial aspects to limited edition silkscreens?
Limited edition, signed and numbered prints are in themselves a part of the art market, part of the art business. It allows an artist to create another type of work from their original that has a different value. Like doing an acoustic version of a song.
What’s the history of silkscreen art in the United States?
The technique used to be used for things like billboards and Macy’s signs until people like Andy Warhol starting making original art with it. The beauty of silkscreen is the color. There are millions of different directions you can take the colors. It’s the driving force of why I love what I do.
Your house must have really cool colors inside...
No, they’re pretty bland. I like gray, brown. Its what’s on the walls that counts.