Roy
Lichtenstein

(1923–1997)
Lived and worked in New York, NY

Year created:
1984
Roy Lichtenstein, Five Brushstrokes
Click images for larger view

20' x 7' x 1' 8"

Painted and fabricated aluminum
Edition: AP © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation 2010, Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection

No longer on view.

Roy Lichtenstein was a central artist of the 1960s Pop Art movement—a movement that took its imagery and inspiration from popular culture. Lichtenstein first grabbed the attention of the art world in 1962 with his paintings featuring Benday dots, flat, bright colors and hard black outlines derived from comics and commercial imagery. The sculptures he produced throughout his career are not as well known. Lichtenstein first began making multi-colored, planar metal sculptures of household items such as lamps, glasses, pitchers, mirrors, and goldfish bowls in a wry dialogue with the works of Henri Matisse in the 1970s. By the 1980s Lichtenstein began a series of brushstroke sculptures. Five Brushstrokes is a 20-foot-high stack of three large brushstrokes accented by two smaller ones on the top and the bottom. He made the maquette for this sculpture in 1984, long after he had moved beyond comic strip subject matter to mine the styles of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and even his own "masterworks," along with other Modernist imagery. Five Brushstrokes was fabricated for the first time in 1994. The deCordova's edition, the second fabrication, is a posthumous artist's proof made in 2010.

The Pop Art movement was, in part, a rebellion against the improvised, emotive style of 1940s and 1950s Abstract Expressionism. Five Brushstrokes satirizes Abstract Expressionist strokes of paint by separating, amplifying and exaggerating them with hard edges and bold color pairings. It also expands on Lichtenstein's absurdist notion to "freeze" something which the viewer takes to be liquid and transient (paint) counter-intuitively, into a permanent metal form. Unlike Abstract Expressionist work, which focused on the artist's individual psychology, Lichtenstein's sculpture leaves no trace of the labor used to produce it. Instead, its layers of waterproof epoxy paint and marine urethane, the same materials used on boats, lends it a printed quality that belies its three-dimensional aluminum structure. Five Brushstrokes is more than a reaction to Abstract Expressionism; just as Lichtenstein parodied the work of the "great masters", Five Brushstrokes parodies Lichtenstein's own Brushstroke paintings from the mid-1960s. The shiny aluminum strokes of Five Brushstrokes are barely three-dimensional. But they do have a twenty-inch depth and recessed grooves within the sculpture. The sculpture is, as Lichtenstein says, "a two-dimensional symbol on a three-dimensional object"—a sculpture that refuses to be a sculpture.
 
Taken off view in July 2013.
 
 
Watch Five Brushstrokes be installed in the Sculpture Park in 2010.