Art in U2 : Roy Lichtenstein * - U2 Feedback

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Old 09-26-2003, 10:17 AM   #1
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Art in U2 : Roy Lichtenstein *

By Kathleen Barnes


The arrival of Pop in 1997 and the subsequent Popmart tour created new design challenges for U2 and their creative team. With the pop art motif created by Dublin’s design gurus Four5One for the album, which was inspired by the band’s own exploration of commercialism and kitsch irony in the album’s techno-styled songs, it seemed natural for the group to explore that genre even more for Popmart. One of the artists whose work was sought for the onstage screen graphics was Roy Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein was born in New York in 1923. He began drawing and painting in high school. Following a three year stint in the Army, he returned to his studies at Ohio State University in 1946, eventually earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Fine Art. He then became an art instructor and taught at various colleges until 1963.

Around this time a new art movement was taking hold. It was a radical shift from more abstract, non-representational works that had dominated the art world since World War II. Inspired by mass media, commercialism, and aspects of popular culture, this exciting and somewhat humorous movement was dubbed “Pop Art”. It was pioneered by Lichtenstein as well as others, most notably Andy Warhol (whose silk screened multi colored images inspired the Pop album cover, and also used on the tour) and Claes Oldenburg (think extremely large sculptures of pencils, ice cream, and hamburgers).

Lichtenstein began to create his most famous "Pop Art" works in the early 1960s, when one of his sons pointed to a picture of Mickey Mouse in a comic book and said “I bet you can’t paint as good as that.” This inspired Lichtenstein to create some of the most unique and interesting works art has ever known, and it was work from this period that U2 eventually obtained for use on the Popmart Tour.

These works consisted of cartoonish paintings, most notably featuring the use of hand-dabbed Ben-Day Dots, which is a printer’s way of positioning circles in such a way that tonal qualities of shade and value are suggested to the viewer. Lichtenstein created cartoons parodying soap operas, advertisements, and an homage to war comics. U2 used the war comics of fighter planes as background animation for "Bullet the Blue Sky" - works such as “Blam!”

According to U2’s longtime tour designer, Willie Williams, using Lichtenstein images was a no-brainer, because of the massive LED (light-emitting diode) display, which is comprised of millions of pixels. "Roy Lichtenstein used series of dots to create his images -- this was the perfect delivery," explains Williams. Williams consulted with Irish born, New York-based artist Catherine Owens in obtaining rights to use and animate the "Pop Art" images of Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Keith Haring. Artist Run Wake then animated Lichtenstein’s and Haring’s work.

Lichtenstein saw the finished animation of his fighter when he attended a Popmart show at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Bono told him from the stage during "Bullet the Blue Sky," “OK Roy, here it comes!”

Roy Lichtenstein passed away only a few months later, on September 29, 1997. During a Popmart show the following night in Tel Aviv, Israel, Bono paid tribute to the artist from the stage during the animation sequence for "Bullet the Blue Sky": “Roy Lichtenstein, we love you!”

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Old 09-27-2003, 12:08 AM   #2
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great article

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Old 09-27-2003, 06:45 AM   #3
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Lichtenstein's a genius.
Excellent article
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Old 09-27-2003, 11:56 AM   #4
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Yeah, Lichtenstein is great. As is the article.

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Old 09-27-2003, 01:14 PM   #5
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i love the way U2 brings in elements from so many other kinds of creations...not just music, but literature, art...they are so willing to experience different things!!

excellent article... i'd love to
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Old 09-27-2003, 03:56 PM   #6
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Thanks very much guys.

There is a ton of Lichtenstein websites out there...I didn't know much about him before doing this article.
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Old 09-27-2003, 09:06 PM   #7
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Old 09-27-2003, 09:13 PM   #8
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Lichtenstein... one of my favorites visual artists
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Old 09-28-2003, 09:29 AM   #9
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Thanks for the great article! It would be wonderful to see a series of articles on all of the art used in PopMart!
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Old 10-01-2003, 09:54 AM   #10
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Lichtenstein and Haring are two of my favorite artists. About three years before PopMart, the Guggenheim had an AMAZING Lichtenstein exhibit that had the paintings that U2 animated for the PopMart shows. I remember seeing Popmart for the first time, and seeing the Lichtenstein and Haring works and thinking I was in my little art of the reasons why I will always love the PopMart tour.

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