Whaam! (1963) by Roy Lichtenstein

Whaam! - Roy Lichtenstein - 1963

Artwork Information

ArtistRoy Lichtenstein
Dimensions172.7 x 421.6 cm
Art MovementPop Art
Current LocationTate Modern, London, UK

About Whaam!

The artwork “Whaam!” by Roy Lichtenstein is a notable piece created in 1963, representing the Pop Art movement. This large-scale work, spanning approximately 172.7 x 421.6 cm, is rendered in magna on canvas and depicts a scene reminiscent of genre painting. “Whaam!” is housed in the Tate Modern in London, UK, and is known for its bold visual language that draws from popular culture and mass media, particularly comic book imagery.

In the artwork, the left panel displays a fighter plane in mid-flight, emblazoned with a prominent number 23, flying through a sky dotted with puffy clouds. The plane’s cockpit shows an American-style star insignia, which along with the plane’s markings, situates it within the military milieu of the mid-twentieth century. Accompanying this image, a yellow-bordered text bubble contains a statement that injects narrative into the scene: “I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky…”

The right panel of the diptych vividly captures the explosive moment of impact, where an enemy aircraft has been hit. A dynamic onomatopoeic “WHAAM!” dominates this panel in large, bold lettering against a bright yellow background, enhancing the dramatic effect of the explosion. The fiery burst, with streaks of yellow, red, orange, and white, envelopes the nose of the disintegrating enemy plane, which is outlined with thick, black lines characteristic of the comic-book printing technique that Lichtenstein appropriates and magnifies.

The artwork’s reliance on thick outlines, Ben-Day dots, and primary colors exemplifies Lichtenstein’s signature style, which both celebrates and critiques the ubiquity of commercial art forms. “Whaam!” thus stands as a striking example of Pop Art’s ability to blur the boundaries between high art and popular culture, employing familiar visual tropes to engage viewers in a commentary on contemporary society.

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