Pop Sculpture

Anyone stuck crawling along Montauk Highway in the Hamptons can relate to wishing that something would carry him away. And now, visually at least, something can. Jutting out of the flat lands on the East End rises a pair of magical, fluid strokes of sculpture that do more than announce the driveway of the Parrish Art Museum. They dramatically alter the land- scape, heralding a vision different from the farms and vineyards surrounding them.

This spring two of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s sculptures, Tokyo Brushstroke I & II, were installed at the museum as part of one exhibition. The aluminum works tower over the low-slung museum at 33 and 19 feet high respectively. Lichtenstein, one of the founders of the Pop Art move- ment, lived in Southampton with his wife from 1970 until his death in 1997. While his comic book inspired paint- ings are instantly recognizable, many may not be familiar with his witty sculptures. This particular pair is an artist’s proofs, never before publicly displayed.

“A monumental sculpture makes a huge statement, not just in physical scale but also…how we relate to our incredibly vibrant artists’ community,” said Terrie Sultan, director of the Parrish Art Museum. “In Tokyo Brushstroke I & II, Lichtenstein captures the very essence of what it means to be an artist—that grand gesture of painting, seen through his eyes.”

The sculptures stand out against the sky in bright red, yellow and blue, highlighted with white and slick black strokes. The colors and flowing shapes are joined with Lichtenstein’s signature use of Ben-Day dots. Traditionally employed in comics and commercial printing, the dots have been repurposed by the artist throughout his career.

He was a contemporary of Andy Warhol—newspapers, advertising and popular culture influenced both. But Lichtenstein really found his inspiration in comics. And his appropriation and use of abstracted, flattened imagery joined by text became central themes for him and the later generations of artists who drew from his style. Pop Art frequently added a healthy dose of humor in the form of parody and what Lichtenstein described as the irony of being a symbol of something that they aren’t. Despite their inherently playful nature, like all serious works of art, these sculptures are about a lot of things. They’re sculptures about painting. They refer to something many artists do, in a way no other artist did. They transform something that happens on a two-dimensional canvas into an enormous three-dimensional object.

Countless memorials have been built to kings, presidents and even poets, but by creating a monumental stroke of paint and placing it on a pedestal for all to see, Lichtenstein and these sculptures pay tribute to art itself. It’s art about art.

The long-term loan was arranged by Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman and the Fuhrman Family Foundation along with the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. Glenn Fuhrman, an East End resident and a Trustee of MoMA, said, “having a wonderful art museum in town is awesome, but not very awesome if nobody knows it’s there.” Lichtenstein’s sculptures are bound to change that. Fuhrman described them as “bright and colorful, and very playful. And that’s kind of what the Hamptons are about.”

Sultan said she believes “that experiences with great art can be transformational,” and that the sculptures have already transformed the neighborhood. “No one can miss our driveway now,” she said with a laugh.