From 1963 to 1967 Lichtenstein produced over 100 unique landscape and seascape compositions collaged from plastic sheets with unique optical properties. One of them, Rowlux™, is an illusionistic plastic exhibiting different three-dimensional patterns that move and change with viewing angle. The artist experimented also with mirrored, iridescent and colored plastic sheets as well as other collage materials. Starting in 1966, he introduced motors to add motion to certain parts of the image and motorized lamps to cast colored light.
Originally, Lichtenstein chose simple aluminum frames to hold the loose sheets together and to cover irregular collaged edges for a more finished look. Thus, frames are integral to Rowlux/plastic works.
In this catalogue, the classification Rowlux/plastic is applied to unique works; editions made with Rowlux and plastic sheets are classified as prints.
Whenever possible, a Primary Image illustrates a work in its original frame. If a Primary Image shows a Rowlux/plastic work unframed, the caption “Photographed unframed” is added. A Research Image may show the framed work. If no caption is added, no evidence could be found that a particular work had an original frame.
For this catalogue, photographs of unframed works were cropped just inside the edges of the collage elements. Likewise, works photographed in non-original frames were cropped to just inside the edges of the frame or mat.
For works with lamps, images aim at showing the original frame with the lamp attached.
Whenever images are available to document the works while illuminated by changing colored light, those images are added as Research Images.
Titles of Rowlux/plastic works are generally taken from the Castelli inventory.
See also: 6. TITLES
Lichtenstein signed and dated the versos of many Rowlux/plastic works. When a verso was not accessible, the date given in the catalogue entry is primarily sourced from the Castelli inventory and RL Studio Cards.
See also: 8. DATES
All visible media on the artwork's recto is described. Excluded are methods of attachment (e.g., liquid adhesive, pressure-sensitive adhesive film), which are invisible from the recto, though attachment is implied.
Collage elements usually overlap and may be adhered to each other rather than just to the support. Instead of describing the nexus of attachments, all media are listed, followed by the support (usually "board"), followed by the frame when relevant. Media are provided in the order of visual predominance, usually corresponding to the amount of space they take up.
Details about frame manufacture are added to a media line when relevant. For Rowlux/plastic works with motorized lamps, the lamp is described, including the color sequence when documented. Color terminology is applied per the authors’ best judgement based on the available documentation.
For collage elements trimmed or shaped in the artist's studio, the entry says “cut” before the medium. For large sheets with original or straight edges, only the medium is given.
In some cases, elements original to the works, like frames and lamps, or collage elements, are now lost. When written or visual documentation (e.g., correspondence with owners, conservation reports, installation photographs) confirms previous existence, “originally” is added before the missing material.
Entries include Image, Board and Frame dimensions as available.
Image refers to the outer edges of any collage elements
Board refers to the primary support (slightly larger than the image)
Frame refers to the original frame
Dimensions without a prefix (see "Prefixes" in 10. DIMENSIONS) either give the overall size (usually the board size) or reflect dimensions given in a source, which is then indicated in Remarks.
Sight dimensions are given for works in non-original frames when they could not be unframed for examination.
Whenever a work could not be examined, every effort was made to provide information from other sources, and the source is cited in Remarks.
See also: 10. DIMENSIONS
Signature, Inscriptions and Marks
Signatures on Rowlux/plastic works are usually on the verso and in graphite pencil. Motorized works were signed on the verso of the wood backing board of the frame.
See also: 11. INSCRIPTIONS
No analytical testing for plastic identification was conducted. In this catalogue, the following terms have been used:
Vinyl refers to solid black plastic sheets found in approximately 20 works. The Castelli inventory identifies black plastic in several works as vinyl. This term was used for all works showing what is assumed to be the same material.
Mirrored plastic refers to sheets that reflect their surroundings like mirrors. Mirrored plastic in Rowlux/plastic works range from silver to gold. Some have aged poorly, resulting in color shifts and reduction of reflectivity. Plastic ID is unknown.
Iridescent plastic refers to sheets that exhibit iridescence, or color change contingent on viewing angle. In at least one example, RLCR 1332, the iridescent plastic is laminated to paper. Plastic ID is unknown.
Screenprinted (?) plastic refers to sheets coated with multiple colors of paint or ink. Question mark in related entries indicate uncertainty. Plastic ID is unknown.
Lenticular print refers to an image that changes with viewing angle (e.g., the Vari-Vue print in RLCR 1314). Simplified, the surface "lens" is grooved plastic that is laminated to a printed image. Plastic ID is unknown.
Plastic refers to solid-colored plastic sheets for which plastic ID is unknown.
Acetate refers to clear plastic found in RLCR 1228, called as such following the related RL Studio Card. The artist was known to have used clear plastic sheets that his studio referred to as acetate, though plastic ID is not confirmed.
See also: 4.3. COLLAGE
Supports and Frames
Board is the primary support of most non-motorized Rowlux/plastic works. It is typically 4-ply, white to cream mat board. Most boards are approximately the same size as collage elements and hidden when framed. Some boards are slightly longer in height and width than collage elements and visible when framed. Only in rare cases no board is found and Rowlux serves as the primary support (e.g., RLCR 948).
Welded aluminum frame is an original frame made of aluminum with “seamless” welded joints, polished edges and glass glazing. To the best of the authors’ understanding, Rowlux/plastic works were given welded aluminum frames, with the exceptions of a few works that received different types of frames (see other types, below) and the studies for prints, out of which just RLCR 948 was given a welded aluminum frame. Today, the frame status varies; works have been unframed, reframed, or retain original frames. When welded aluminum frame is listed in the media line, it means the work still possesses its original frame, or that there is clear photographic or written evidence of the frame’s existence in the past. Although most works are assumed to have received frames originally, a frame is not listed in the media line unless there is concrete evidence of its existence. Non-original frames are not addressed.
When the framer is known or assumed, the name is added to the media line. The two primary framers for Lichtenstein's Rowlux/plastic works were:
Kulicke Framers, Inc.: There are labels on 6 frames identifying Kulicke Framers, Inc. Based on material and structural consistencies with the labeled frames, at least one other frame is assumed to be by Kulicke.
Dain/Schiff Picture Framers, Inc.: There are labels on two frames identifying Dain/Schiff Picture Framers, Inc. Of the remaining frames the authors ascertained that approximately 30 more are likely Dain/Schiff frames.
Kulicke and Dain/Schiff frames are nearly identical from the front, but distinguishable from the back and sides. Kulicke frames have screws on the sides where the frame is attached to a wooden strainer. Dain/Schiff frames have metal clips on the back which secure the frame around a wooden strainer. Both framers were located steps away from Leo Castelli Gallery at the time of production of the Rowlux/plastic works.
Metal section frame refers to a customizable aluminum frame made from four lengths of metal “sections” attached with corner braces from the back.
There are two works that have additional types of frames: RLCR 1137 was given an all-Plexiglas box frame (developed by Robert Kulicke in 1964 and called Plexibox frame by Kulicke Framers, Inc.). RLCR 1126 has a bespoke, silver-painted wood frame.
Motorized Works and Lamps
Motor refers to an electric motor attached to the frame backing board, used to animate collage elements to mimic the swell of waves. Motors are plugged into electrical outlets to function and controlled by dials on the backs of the frames. Lichtenstein purchased motors from refrigerator companies in downtown Manhattan.
Welded aluminum frames were used for motorized works. They were likely built by Dain/Schiff Picture Framers, Inc., and included white to cream window mats. In place of a wood strainer on the back there is a wood backing board and wood spacers for motorized parts. A media line says "frame" even when it was impossible to confirm a frame's originality, because these motorized works are incomplete and do not function without frames.
Wood refers to the wood backing board, spacers and other parts comprising the frame box of motorized works. Typically, frame parts that are invisible from the recto are not commented on, but these parts are understood as being critical to the function and form of the works.
Motorized lamp refers to a cylindrical lamp meant to be attached to a frame. The lamp is comprised of a bulb surrounded by a rotating drum painted by the artist so that it radiates changing colors of light onto a work’s surface in a repeating sequence. Lamps must be plugged into electrical outlets to function. Lichtenstein once indicated that works with lamps could be exhibited with or without the lamp. Works that have been exhibited with a lamp have a distinctive pair of screw holes on the back of the frame’s wooden strainer.