Roy Lichtenstein’s sculptures, “Tokyo Brushstroke I” and “Tokyo Brushstroke II” (1994), recently installed in front of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, make a bold and monumental mark on the East End.
Adding to significant landmarks along Long Island’s eastward pilgrimage, from Linda Scott’s “Stargazer,” to the historical windmills of Water Mill and East Hampton, the Brushstrokes are now part of that landscape — letting us know when and where we’ve arrived.
The sculptures pay homage not only to the great 20th century Pop artist who created them, but to the many important artists represented at the Parrish Art Museum — from American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, to the great Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, to contemporary artists like Ross Bleckner and Eric Fischl, to name just a few of many who continue to make a significant impression on art history from their Hamptons homes and studios.
The art historical reach of production and creativity on the East End is global and in many ways the installation of “Tokyo Brushstroke I” and “Tokyo Brushstroke II” exemplifies this. The Parrish Art Museum is now intrinsically linked to Tokyo, the location where the original 1994 sculpture was installed (the Parrish has the artist’s proof), as well as to international institutions displaying other works in the series, including “Brushstrokes in Flight” (1984), “Three Brushstrokes” (1984), “Brushstroke Group” (1987-2007), “Five Brushstrokes” (1994-2010) and “Brushstrokes” (1996) at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., the National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio and Pontiac Marina in Singapore, home of “Singapore Brushstrokes.”
In conjunction with the new installation, the Parrish Art Museum plans to host educational events, such as screening Checkerboard Films’ Roy Lichtenstein: Toyko Brushstrokes, a 1995 documentary produced by Edgar B. Howard and directed by Mark Trottenberg, which shows the artist and artwork in process — beginning with a collection of brushstrokes created for collage and continuing through Lichtenstein’s meetings with Japanese architects and curators, enlarging the drawings, fabricating the sculpture, and concluding with the final installation.
The recent Water Mill installation could easily have been the subject of a sequel documentary. With a slightly different start-to-finish path, the museum’s yearlong process of acquiring “Tokyo Brushstrokes” came about in a holistic way — made possible through the Parrish’s close relationship with Dorothy Lichtenstein and her Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection, from which the work is on long-term loan. After the artist’s death in 1997, it was specified that the work, a unique artist’s proof of the 1994 sculptures, could only be made for an American museum. From there, Paul Amaral, of Amaral Custom Fabrication in Rhode Island, fabricated the Brushstrokes —thanks in large part to patrons Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman and their Fuhrman Family Foundation.
The placement of the work on the museum’s front lawn, west of the driveway entrance near Montauk Highway, was decided in conjunction with the museum’s architects, Herzog & de Meuron. The installation crew included of two members of The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, seven from Marshall Fine Arts fine art movers and installers, as well as Metro Crane owner Ronnie DeMarchis and a fabricator from the Amaral Group.
“Tokyo Brushstroke I” was installed by crane into a cement brace. Weighing more than 12,000 pounds, the 33-foot tall sculpture is constructed in two pieces, which were joined on site. “Tokyo Brushstroke II,” 19 feet tall and approximately 5,000 pounds, was installed closer to Montauk Highway.
Well-known for his “handmade readymade” giant comics and use of Ben-Day dots, Roy Lichtenstein was also fascinated by the brushstroke. He made brushstroke paintings, brushstroke collages, even brushstroke chairs and tables; highlighting the brushstroke itself as an icon of his work as a painter.
“It’s a symbol of something it isn’t, and that is part of the irony I’m interested in,” Lichtenstein said of his Toyko Brushstrokes. A painted aluminum sculpture of a brushstroke is indeed ironic — bringing together and questioning our notions of sculpture and painting.
For Terrie Sultan, director of the Parrish Art Museum, Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes signify the museum’s core value in illuminating the process of making art. When considering the museum’s first outdoor sculpture, it was important that the work be both monumental in size and in relevance.
Key pieces for Lichtenstein and for the museum, the Brushstrokes also hadn’t been seen. Now, the sculptures will be among the most viewed artworks on the East End.
The Parrish Art Museum is located at 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Call 631-283-2118 or visit parrishart.org for more.