Executed in 1966, this work will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
From the beginning of his mature career, Roy Lichtenstein was preoccupied with the formal qualities of art itself, in particular the difficult task of representing the ephemeral quality of artistic illusionism and technique as a subject matter in and of itself. Using the mass-produced comic strip as inspiration brought him closer to his goal, calling the genre "a way of crystallizing the style by exaggeration" (J. Coplans, "Talking with Roy Lichtenstein," Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1967, p. 16). His paintings of explosions in particular, like Varoom, 1963, magnify the ability of the graphic artist to capture and perfect a flash of light.
When Lichtenstein began making sculptural objects of explosions in the late 1960s this aim was doubly accomplished. Meant to hang flat on the wall, Wall Explosion and Explosion II, both dated 1965, combine smooth colorful layers of painted steel to create bursts of three-dimensional illusionism, again capturing and exaggerating the artificiality of mechanized artistic production. As Diane Waldman has observed, "Lichtenstein's sculpture is an extension of his painting. With enamel, Lichtenstein accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete" (D. Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, p. 23).
The fully sculptural Standing Explosion is the third and final capitulation of the "explosion" theme. In creating this piece, Lichtenstein was returning to the real world what he had previously extracted as an indexical reference to reality. Further, by bringing to life what he had originally wished to highlight as artificial, Lichtenstein was doubling back and commenting on his own formal development. In retrospect, the self-referential gesture of Standing Explosion is a graceful end-point to one of the most thought-provoking formal explorations of Lichtenstein's career.