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Former Springfield teacher's work attracts international attention

Date: 5/17/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

CHICOPEE — The groundbreaking research work conducted by a member of the Chicopee School Committee and former Springfield schoolteacher is part of an exhibit at a gallery in London, United Kingdom.

For years David Barsalou has been meticulously researching the artwork of painter Roy Lichtenstein, who came to prominence in the 1960s for his pop art compositions that resembled panels from romance and war comic books. What Barsalou has found are the actual drawings in the original comic books that show that Lichtenstein did the painting equivalent of copying and pasting.

Barsalou has assembled a website ( and a Flickr account ( with side-by side comparisons of the Lichtenstein painting and the original art. He has also identified the artist of the original works, names that read like a who's who of comic art: Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Russ heath and Irv Novick, among others.

He is heartened to be part of "Image Duplicator," the exhibit that will be up at the Orbital Comics Gallery in London form may 16 through May 31. The exhibit is a direct reaction to a Lichtenstein exhibit at the Tate Modern.

"I've been sort of waiting for something like this to happen . to move it forward," he said.

He started researching the Lichtenstein images in 1970 and has gone through thousands of comic books to find the originals.

Barsalou added it was "mindboggling" to him that artists such Dave Gibbons and Howard Chaykin refer to his work.

Rian Hughes of the organizers of the London exhibit told Reminder Publications, "David's work and his 'Deconstructing Lichtenstein' site has been invaluable. I think many people, including some comic artists, are unaware of just how directly [Lichtenstein] lifted comic book panels. And how bad he was at hair."

He added, "In response to the big Lichtenstein retrospective currently on at the Tate, it seemed a great idea to have a counter-show by comic book artists — and other 'commercial artists' — in a comic book shop's gallery (as opposed to a 'fine art' gallery), where comic book artists could 're-reappropriate' the images Lichtenstein lifted, and in the process comment on this whole process."

Money raised from sale of prints and originals will be donated to the Hero Initiative, which assists comic books artists are suffering difficulties.

Barsalou noted that recently a Lichtenstein painting sold at auction for $43.2 million and he asked if the original artist, Jim Pike, "is going to get a cut of that?"

He added that Pike and Heath are still alive, but do not benefit from the sale of Lichtenstein originals or prints based on their work.

Lichtenstein isn't around to answer Barsalou as he died in 1997. A foundation protects the copyrights to his work.

What Lichtenstein's work represents to Barsalou is "the abuse of comic book artists."

Barsalou hopes that other artists in other counties will do something similar to the show in London and said, "I can't believe how huge this has become overseas."

Hughes shares Barsalou's dream and said, "What I hope is that the concept will be recreated in other comic-book galleries, here and in the U.S. and elsewhere, and we can build towards a book — one which would also contain critical essays on the relationship between "fine art" the gallery world, comics and the commercial realm in general. To put the record straight, and give credit where credit's due. And raise money for the Hero Initiative, of course!"

Barsalou said that he would not be able to attend the show and said, "I don't know what the next step is. Who knows what happen."

One thing for certain is that Barsalou is continuing his work.