Order And Ornament: Roy Lichtenstein’s Entablatures To Provide Focused Examination Of Artist’s Process

Opening September 27 at The Whitney, Order and Ornament: Roy Lichtenstein’s Entablatures will present a concentrated selection of fifteen 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.

An agreement between the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the Whitney established The Roy Lichtenstein Study Collection, initiated with a promised gift from the Foundation of over 400 examples of Lichtenstein’s work in all media and from all periods of his working career, from the early 1940s to the artist’s death in 1997. The collection comprises paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, drawings, tracings, collages, and maquettes by the artist, as well as studio materials selected to represent Lichtenstein’s artistic practice and process. The Foundation’s planned gifts to other institutions in addition to the Whitney will encourage collaborations between the Museum and a host of other institutions throughout the country and internationally.

Order and Ornament: Roy Lichtenstein’s Entablatures, organized by David Crane, curatorial fellow, will be on view in the Susan and John Hess Family Gallery on the Museum’s third floor.

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

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.

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 twentieth 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.

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 drily ironic look at the intersection of contemporary art, Classical and modern architecture, and hackneyed emblems of, in the artist’s words, ‘the establishment,’” said Crane.