give me a call!
Love – carefree as in Rococo paintings or intense as in Romanticism, with a happy ending as in a fairy tale or without a happy ending as in Romeo and Juliet. Ballads were the way to express love in the Middle Ages; now we have pop songs. But love has always been a touchy subject, because it concerns each and every one of us – no matter the time period. How many of us have never sat by a cell phone, impatiently waiting for a call or a longed-for text from that one person, a loved one? It’s safe to say most of us have had that experience – maybe even more than once or twice.
Let’s take a closer look at pop, namely pop art and pop music. Do famous artist portraying the adventures of love – such as Roy Lichtenstein – and pop music icons such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga have anything in common? Turns out they do, and its…a phone!
Roy Lichtenstein, the king of pop art, introduced a completely new perspective on love in art by choosing to stuff his love dramas into colorful, comic-book frames that perfectly reflect the 1960s lifestyle. In his paintings, we see modern women, with fashionable hairstyles and characteristic eye lines, who experience the same emotional dilemmas as their mothers and grandmothers before them. The main difference, however, is that instead of writing love letters or waiting for the return of their loved one, they pick up the phone and call. A concerned blonde says: “Oh, Jeff … I love you, too … but …” – and we don’t quite know what stands in the way of that love. Then there’s a ginger girl who reluctantly accepts something: “Ohhh … alright …”, but we can tell it’s not what she expected.
Roy Lichtenstein shows love devoid of its centuries-long pathos. There’s nothing sublime about the sadness or disappointment of crying women, who are suddenly shown in a comic-like way that brings them closer to an advertising poster. And what does pop music have to do with all this?
Watching Beyoncé’s Why Don’t You Love Me music video, the association with the comic portraits of Lichtenstein’s women comes to mind almost immediately. With a 1950s allure and smeared in ink, a crying Beyoncé holds the receiver asking the person on the other end: why don’t you love me? And just like in Lichtenstein’s paintings, we never find out the answer.
Another music video that immediately comes to mind is Lady Gaga’s Telephone where the singer, wearing a blonde wig like the heroines of Lichtenstein’s paintings, topped off with an over-the-top makeup, not only talks on the phone, but is also in the middle of cooking a meal. Throughout the video, she shows food products in a way that makes it an obvious nod to pop art – for example, a can of Warhol’s Campbell Soup. Still, what sets the girl from the video apart from Lichtenstein’s works, is her attitude towards the person she’s talking to – she tells them, without beating around the bush, that she has no time for them.
Even though decades have passed since Lichtenstein’s works first came to light, the phone is still a witness of all sorts of love stories, and perhaps even more now than in the 1960s – anyone who uses instant messaging and dating apps knows that. If anything, it proves just how close art and everyday life can be!
transl. Jakub Majchrzak