Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Ceramic Sculpture #16’, 1965, Phillips

This work will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and is included in their online works listing.

From the Catalogue:
Painted in vibrant blues and fiery reds with glossy blacks, whites and reflective silver, Roy Lichtenstein’s Ceramic Sculpture #16 recalls the familiarity of consumerist objects that harken back to American diner culture of the 1960s. Executed in 1965, right at the time when the artist started regularly working with sculptural media like ceramic and enamel, the present lot reminds us of the power of paint. With his characteristic Ben-Day dots and blocks of color, the artist breaks down the three dimensional form of a leaning tower of cups and saucers into its graphic surface elements. In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein began working in ceramic, a surface which better allowed him to paint the vibrant graphics for which he is most well-known. In the present lot, these graphics are particularly striking, as rich blocks of color interact with metallic silver. On one side of the sculpture, the viewer is confronted with a reflective silver surface, juxtaposed with repetitive, deep blue Ben-Day dots that are themselves interrupted by wavy, imperfect red and black brushstrokes. On the other side of the sculpture, the elements are almost entirely painted over in a vibrant red, atop which are black Ben-Day dots. This unique blending of mechanized repetition with abstract brushstrokes mimics the same paradox that exists in the work itself. While confronted with a recognizable symbol of low culture, viewers are simultaneously faced with the sculpture’s lack of functionality and in turn, characterization of a high art object.

The coffee cups are stacked atop each other in a teetering tower, as if left on the counter in haste. Such is the tromp-l’oeil effect that Lichtenstein so sought in his rendition of the all-American subject of the diner cup, erected at the height of consumerist culture in the 1960s. “I don’t care what, say, a cup of coffee looks like. I only care about how it’s drawn”, Lichtenstein explained of the subject matter (Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Jack Cowart, ed., Roy Lichtenstein: Beginning to End, exh. cat., Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 2007, pp. 118-119). In typical pop art fashion, Lichtenstein plays with a recognizable symbol and in turn challenges the viewer’s expectations and interpretations. Ceramic Sculpture #16 brings to mind something familiar, while also challenging the classification of fine art at mid-century.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated "rf Lichtenstein '65" on the underside

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Leon Kraushar, New York
Sterling Holloway
Private Collection
Anders Malmberg, Malmö
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Roy Lichtenstein

When American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein painted Look Mickey in 1961, it set the tone for his career. This primary-color portrait of the cartoon mouse introduced Lichtenstein’s detached and deadpan style at a time when introspective Abstract Expressionism reigned. Mining material from advertisements, comics, and the everyday, Lichtenstein brought what was then a great taboo—commercial art—into the gallery. He stressed the artificiality of his images by painting them as though they’d come from a commercial press, with the flat, single-color Ben-Day dots of the newspaper meticulously rendered by hand using paint and stencils. Later in his career, Lichtenstein extended his source material to art history, including the work of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, and experimented with three-dimensional works. Lichtenstein’s use of appropriated imagery has influenced artists such as Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Raymond Pettibon.

American, 1923-1997, New York, New York, based in New York and Southampton, New York