Exhibitions/ Roy Lichtenstein on the Roof

Roy Lichtenstein on the Roof

May 1–November 2, 2003
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Exhibition Overview

Six brightly painted or patinated bronze and aluminum sculptures by the American artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) are installed in the most dramatic outdoor space for sculpture in New York City: The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, which offers a spectacular view of Central Park and the New York City skyline. Created in the 1990s, the six works include a group of "brushstroke" figures and a 17-foot-wide house.

Born in 1923 in Manhattan, Lichtenstein majored in art at Ohio State University and served in the army during World War II. He obtained his master of fine arts degree at Ohio State and taught there for several years, returning to the New York area in 1960. Since the 1960s he lived in various neighborhoods of lower Manhattan and in eastern Long Island. He soon became famous as an inventor of Pop painting, known for his bold yet refined and witty adaptations of the shorthand of commercial illustration, notably techniques and subjects used in love and war comics. By the mid-1960s the subjects of high modern art and modern design became important themes for him, as he adapted the work of Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, and Mondrian and the styles of Cubism, Futurism, Purism, German Expressionism, de Stijl, Surrealism, and Native American art in his paintings and in many of his first mature sculptures.

Lichtenstein had been making sculpture on and off since art school and returned to it in 1965. Much of his sculpture has extended and played on his fascination with various conventions of commercial art and high art—for example, his sculptures, like his paintings, are often partly colored with Benday dots, the round specks used in commercial photoengraving to model a subject from light to dark in order to convey the illusion of volume on a two-dimensional surface.

Many of Lichtenstein's three-dimensional works since the mid-1960s are nearly, though not quite, flat; generous in height and width, they are at most a few inches deep. The presence of volume we expect is suggested in most of Lichtenstein's sculpture by the same graphic conventions he used to convey volume in paintings, not by actual depth. With sculpture, he usually began with small sketches of borrowed or imagined forms, then made a paper collage and, next, with help from his studio assistants, a model. He then adjusted the model and he and his assistants went on to create a full-scale maquette that was used to create sand or lost-wax molds for casting the sculpture in bronze or aluminum. Alternatively, the maquette was used by a fabricator to weld together the elements of an aluminum work. In either case, the sculptures were then painted and sometimes patinated with weather-resistant colors.

The installation is made possible by the Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust.