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about media and representation as much or more than a formal exercise. Even the title Lucky Strike prefigures the title of Roy Lichtenstein’s breakthrough Pop painting Hey Mickey, I’ve Hooked a Big One! (1961,) which refers to Donald Duck’s lucky strike while fishing as much as the artist’s fortunate discovery of a new way to make important art. But Davis’ work evolved beyond what would become Pop Art. He began to appropriate the style of comics as much as their iconography. In later paintings such as Hot Still-Scape for Six ColorsSeventh Avenue Style (1940) Davis used the energetic doodle of comic strip art more than the diagrammatic icons that became ubiquitous through trademark licensing and, later, Pop Art. In doing so Davis struck upon a fertile interrelation between what artists were doing in comics and painting and anticipated the alternative history of Pop Art, based upon the work of artists such as H.C. Westermann and Peter Saul rather than Warhol and Lichtenstein. Even so, the doodle remains an underappreciated aspect of 20th century American art. At first glance doodles just seem like a way to make drawings look good in print, much like cross-hatching did in woodcut illustrations by 19th century masters such as Thomas Nast. But in reality doodles are the hidden dynamo of creativity in comics from TAD and Herriman through R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman and beyond. A good point of comparison between the doodle as an essential aspect of art in comics and the more familiar use of comic iconography in fine art is Andy Warhol’s painting Popeye from 1961 and its apparent source, E.C. Segar’s Thimble Theater (starring Popeye) from the 1930s. Warhol’s painting is more about the physical object of the tabloid comics page, with the backing image of a cross-word puzzle bleeding through, than a sympathetic use of comic strip drawing in a painted object. The canvas is dominated by the Popeye logo knocked out in white from the blue background just as Popeye himself is knocking out some unseen assailant from the frame. The painting is about printing and mass reproduction (even though it was done before Warhol began to literally print on canvas using the silkscreen process). In particular, the way popular iconography had reached a level of saturation in American culture where even the ghost of an icon like Popeye packed a tremendous wallop. For Warhol, the canvas was a place where imagery was elevated and as such his painting was an illustration of how American society had become a visual culture in which pictures were not longer directly related to things in the natural world, but only to other images created and disseminated for commercial gain. It is notable that Warhol did not appropriate Popeye from its original source, but rather from a lesser talent (most likely Bud Sagendorf) whom the newspaper syndicate hired to continue the strip after Segar’s untimely death in the mid-1930s. In short, Warhol’s appropriation is not about the artistry of certain comics creators, but of a tabloid image he found around the time he began creating Pop Art paintings. Warhol’s brilliant mistake -turning the apparent by-products of mass culture into something beautiful and distinctly American- was actually something pre-figured not only by Stuart Davis, but Segar himself. Segar began his career making pedestrian comic strips based on Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp character. They were so bad that Chaplin demanded that they cease publication. Segar eventually was hired to create an imitation of Ed Wheelan’s Minute Movies, called Thimble

ROY LICHTENSTEIN Look Mickey, 1961 Oil on canvas. Series Comic. Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

ANDY WARHOL Popeye, 1961

DOSSIER · ARTECONTEXTO · 23

Profile for ARTEHOY Publicaciones y Gestion SL

ARTECONTEXTO Nº10.  

Dossier: COMIC WORLD / MUNDO CÓMIC 2006

ARTECONTEXTO Nº10.  

Dossier: COMIC WORLD / MUNDO CÓMIC 2006

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