Restoring a Lichtenstein sculpture at the Getty
What would Roy Lichtenstein think?
Long before his death in 1997, the Pop master surely knew that his work would survive. His interpretations of comic books, art history and artists’ materials — strikingly rendered in bright colors, sharp contrasts, black dots and crisp outlines — were in all the right museums and private collections.
But he couldn’t have imagined how much time and energy would go into preserving “Three Brushstrokes,” his 1984 painted aluminum sculpture at the Getty Museum. The subject of a case study that started four years ago, the artwork has been researched, tested, analyzed and debated — before being stripped, primed and restored to near-original condition in a Getty conservation lab.
“It’s really kind of fun,” says James DePasquale, a longtime Lichtenstein assistant, downplaying the challenges of painting a three-dimensional work that stands about 10 feet high and is divided into sharp-edged sections of color. “The trickiest part,” he says, isn’t painting on a ladder or using his little finger as a support while wielding a brush with his thumb and index finger. It’s determining precisely where one color ends and another begins. “You know the edge is somewhere in there,” he says. “You just sense it.”
Photo: Tom Learner Sr. of the Getty Conservation Institute; James DePasquale, studio manager for the Roy Lichtenstein Estate; and conservator Julie Wolfe of the Getty Musuem talk about the restoration of "Three Brushstrokes." Credit: Anne Cusack /Los Angeles Times