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Critical Review

Lichtenstein first started photographing architectural facades around Lower Manhattan in 1971, which we see reproduced in his Entablature series. The artist first started photographing architectural facades and ornamental motifs around Lower Manhattan in 1971.

He zeroed in on a specific type of architectural superstructure made out of a series of mouldings. Inspired by Classic Greek architecture, these elements are referred to as ‘cornice’, ‘frieze’ and ‘architrave’. All three decorative components are usually found atop architectural columns and bear the collective label of ‘entablature’.

These monumental architectural elements provided the artist with ready-made designs, similar to the comic strip and advertisement sources he applied in other artistic endeavours. The artist manufactured two series of paintings around the topic of entablature. The first series of paintings were purely black and white, while the second ones were supplied with colours, culminating in the production of eleven technologically advanced prints in 1976.

Lichtenstein’s Entablatures embrace his persistent artistic concern with abstraction, while also adding a new perspective on the mass replication of cultural and institutional symbols. The artist explored these themes in his prominent Haystack series, Bulls series, and Cathedral series, among others.

Lichtenstein’s Entablature prints employ polished screen printed and lithographed areas. Handcrafted stencils are also utilised here, combined with machine made glossy and matte metal foil elements. The resulting works offer unusual colour schemes and lavish finishes, marking the peak of material experimentation and technical complexity in the artist’s career.

The Entablature prints are elongated and thin, drawing a physical analogy to the original architectural features they were predicated on. The horizontal flow of the ornamentation is also suggestive of such a parallel, alluding to an uninterrupted continuation of the pattern beyond the printed sheet.