534 W 21st Street
NEW YORK—The Paula Cooper Gallery will present an exhibition of works by Roy Lichtenstein from his celebrated Entablatures series. The paintings, realized between 1971 and 1976, will be on view from September 17 through October 22, 2011.
Having already risen to prominence in the early 60’s with his Pop art subjects, Lichtenstein began a series of Mirrors paintings in 1969. By 1970, while continuing on the Mirrors series, he started work on the subject of entablatures. The entablature is an architectural element resembling a band or molding lying horizontally above the columns of a building. Originating in the architecture of ancient Greece, the motif was also abundantly represented in America in the early twentieth-century Beaux-Arts and Greco-Roman revival style used for public buildings such as museums and libraries. Lichtenstein’s Entablatures comprised of a first series of paintings from 1971-72, followed by a second series in 1974-76, and the publication of a series of relief prints in 1976.
As a source for his work, Lichtenstein looked at Greek and Roman examples from reproductions in architectural journals, but also took photographs of Manhattan building façades, generally shooting around noon when light and shadow were in high contrast and the ornamental features thrown in sharp relief. The relationship between the paintings and the source materials is most visible in the first series of paintings; in the later series, one senses the artist’s freer hand and more experimental touch.
In Barbara Rose’s estimation, the Entablatures works are “like the comic strip in that they are reductive, symbolic and diagrammatic images closer to the world of abstract signs than to that of representational imagery.” Referring specifically to the prints, she views the entire series as “the mechanical reformulation of the romantic tradition of landscape and seascape, an anti-naturalism as appropriately satirical of our technological environment as the anti-humanism of the cartoon style was of the traditional heroic subjects of love and war…”
Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York in 1923. He received a BFA and MFA from Ohio State University and started exhibiting in the early 1950s. Look Mickey, the first painting in which he directly appropriated a panel from a comic strip, was painted in 1961, the year he began to stencil Benday dots onto canvas. He was thereafter included in the groundbreaking exhibitions that defined the Pop Art Movement in the US and abroad, including New Painting of Common Objects, curated by Walter Hopps, Pasadena Museum of Art (1961), International Exhibition of the New Realists at the Sidney Janis Gallery (1962) and American Pop Art at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1964). Lichtenstein had his first retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in 1969, organized by Diane Waldman. It was followed by numerous museum exhibitions and monographs during the artist’s stellar career. The Guggenheim presented a second Lichtenstein retrospective in 1994. Lichtenstein passed away in 1997. His brilliant career and distinguished body of work establishes him as one of the most important American artists of the 20th century.
*Barbara Rose, Roy Lichtenstein: Entablature series, Tyler Graphics, 1976, p. 16, 18.