By Stephen J. Kotz
Two security guards who usually patrol the galleries of the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill were pressed into service directing traffic at the museum’s entrance on Montauk Highway Thursday afternoon, as workers prepared a concrete slab for the placement of one of Roy Lichtenstein’s Tokyo Brushstroke sculptures while a small band of onlookers stood by.
It was a slow process, as could be expected, to move a pair of towering aluminum sculptures, the larger of which weighs more than six tons, the other two-and-a-half tons, into proper position, where, for the foreseeable future, they will be seen by the thousands of drivers who pass the museum every day.
“We are very pleased that we are able to offer the community a significant work by an artist of his stature,” said Terrie Sultan, the museum’s director, who braved the unseasonably cold weather to answer questions for those waiting for workers to finish drilling holes to place large anchor bolts deep in the concrete pads.
“They will be here for a long, long time,” she said of the sculptures, which are on an open-ended loan to the museum from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation in cooperation with the collectors Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman and the Fuhrman Family Foundation.
Ms. Sultan said it was far too early to speculate if more sculptures by other artists will be added to the vast lawn in front of the museum, a barn-like building of poured concrete that was designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. “We have only been here 18 months,” Ms. Sultan said. “The landscaping hasn’t even come in yet.”
She added that bringing in such sculptures is a costly and complicated process, never mind the fact that “scale is a major factor because the building is quite definitive in its presence.”
But Ms. Sultan said she was convinced the Lichtenstein sculptures, which are mostly painted in the primary colors of blue, red, and yellow, would become a “cultural beacon” that would help draw visitors to the museum’s new home.
The museum director called Mr. Lichtenstein “one of the most important American artists of the 20th century.”
“He was one of the major forbearers of the Pop Art movement,” she continued. “He was incredibly innovative in how he made art. He definitely changed the way we looked at the intersection of art and culture.”
Mr. Lichtenstein, who was born and raised in New York City, is best known for his comic-strip inspired paintings including “Whaam!,” which depicts an American jet fighter blowing up an enemy plane, and “Drowning Girl, in which a thought bubble above the subject’s head says, “I don’t care! I’d rather sink—than call Brad for help!”
He and his wife, Dorothy, who remains on the museum’s board, began coming to Southampton in the 1960s, moving there full-time in 1970 and beginning a long relationship with the Parrish. In 1982, the museum presented a show of many of the artist’s early works, and Ms. Lichtenstein was a major donor to the museum’s capital plan, according to Ms. Sultan.
Mr. Lichtenstein came to sculpture later in his career, according to Ms. Sultan, who said it was “a natural progression” for the artist to want to experiment in a three-dimensional medium.
Tokyo Brushstrokes I and II were created in 1994, just three years before Mr. Lichtenstein’s death in 1997 at the age of 83.
The pieces are part of a larger series of “Brushstrokes” that on display in cultural centers across the world, including Paris and Madrid, as well as the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Sultan said that it is common practice for an artist to retain the rights to an artist’s proof of large-scale pieces like those from the Brushstroke series, which Mr. Lichtenstein did. In 2007, his estate exercised the right to execute the artist’s proof. The pieces were in storage in Rhode Island until they were installed last week, while the original remains on display in Tokyo.
“They really look great. They are just beautiful,” Ms. Sultan said of recently installed pieces on Monday. They offer a great contrast to the horizontal of the nature of the building.”