Whitney exhibition studies Lichtenstein’s Entablatures series

Lichtenstein’s Entablatures series

Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997), Entablature VIII, 1976. Embossed screenprint and collage: sheet, 29 1/8 × 44 7/8 in. (74 × 114 cm); image, 21 13/16 × 38 in. (55.4 × 96.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Roy Lichtenstein Study Collection, gift of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation 2019.141. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

NEW YORK – Opening Sept. 27, “Order and Ornament: Roy Lichtenstein’s Entablatures” will present a concentrated selection of 15 works on paper related to the artist’s Entablatures series, as well as a display of preparatory materials.

The first exhibition at the Whitney devoted to the artist since the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation’s transformative gift of the Roy Lichtenstein Study Collection, this focused look at a single pivotal series illustrates how the gift allows the museum to examine the artist’s work in new ways.

“Order and Ornament” highlights Lichtenstein’s inventive processes and techniques across drawings, collages, prints, photographs and archival materials, including one of the artist’s sketchbooks. The works included in the capsule presentation range from never-before-exhibited photographic studies that initiated the Entablatures series in the early 1970s to the technically complex prints that form its culmination in 1976. Inspired by the architectural facades and ornamental motifs the artist encountered around Wall Street and elsewhere in Lower Manhattan, the works in the exhibition address many of Lichtenstein’s central artistic themes while demonstrating a unique emphasis on texture, surface, relief and reflectivity.

“The Entablatures series is an incredibly rich body of work, representing a high watermark for material experimentation in Lichtenstein’s career. Multilayered in its formal and conceptual references, the series offers an incisive and dryly ironic look at the intersection of contemporary art, Classical and modern architecture and hackneyed emblems of, in the artist’s words, ‘the establishment,’” said David Crane, curatorial fellow.

Named for the horizontal structures that rest atop the columns in Classical Greek architecture, Lichtenstein’s Entablatures series represents a distinctly American derivative, one based in revivalist, industrialized imitations that were built en masse in the early 20th century. By isolating these, Lichtenstein traces the effect of mass production and replication on cultural forms, much as he had done in his earlier Pop paintings of comics and consumer goods. A sustained investigation into pattern and repetition, the Entablatures series also underscores the echoes of Classical order embedded within the contemporaneous serial structures of Minimal sculpture and Color Field painting.

“Order and Ornament: Roy Lichtenstein’s Entablatures” will be on view in the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery on the Museum’s third floor.