Reviewed by Grace Ledbetter
In Roy Lichtenstein’s 1961 Look Mickey, the work the artist considered the origin and fountain of his pop oeuvre, Donald Duck stands on a fishing pier looking with gleeful anticipation into the water as he feels the pull of a huge fish at the end of his line. As he stares at what should be his own reflected image, but is instead the artist’s signature amid the water’s waves, Mickey Mouse stands behind with his hand over his mouth, holding in his laughter, as he—and we, the viewers—see that Donald has in fact caught himself; he cannot see that his fishing line has caught on the back of his jacket: “Look Mickey, I’ve Hooked a Big One!!” reads the caption at the painting’s top left corner.
The underlying presence and transformation of the Narcissus myth in this painting is unmistakable, and Graham Bader’s analysis (Chapter 7 “Lichtenstein’s Narcissus”) embodies this exciting volume’s interest in bringing to light the potent—yet largely unexplored—relationship between classical mythology and contemporary art. Here, Bader explores how Lichtenstein’s return to the primal scene of classical mythology aids the artist in defining a new genre, and how Look Mickey reenacts the Narcissus myth with Lacanian inflections. Classical antiquity in fact played an important role in Lichtenstein’s work more generally (Temple of Apollo, 1964; Laocoon, 1988; Galatea, sculpture 1990) and marks a stage in the history of mythology when it is linked to post-Freudian cultural discourse.