Rendered in the graphic style usually reserved for superheroes, a chemist peers down into their test tube. A microscope, beakers and gears surround them.
The print hangs in the main stairwell of Tomsich Hall, and uses only primary colors in addition to black and white. Most surfaces are filled with Benday dots, which are used for shading comic books. It is unmistakably American Pop Art. It is unmistakably the flat, graphic style of Roy Lichtenstein.
“Peace Through Chemistry II,” an original Lichtenstein print from 1970 is no longer its home in the Tomsich stairway This past week, the Gund Gallery removed it so that an exhibition copy could be temporarily put in its place. While the building that houses the chemistry department is the perfect place to keep Lichtenstein’s science-themed print, its location near the stairs revealed a problem: potential sun damage.
As the Gund Gallery’s Registrar & Collections Manager, Robin Goodman is in charge of maintaining the condition of public art at Kenyon. Public works around campus are subject to various problems in their uncontrollable environments. Sculptures, like the Maillol sculpture outside of the Gund Gallery, experience weathering and rusting, and paintings can be damaged when exposed to high temperatures.
“Peace Through Chemistry II” risks being over-exposed to light. “Over time, light, particularly UV light, is going to degrade the ink and the paper,” Goodman said. Its removal from Tomsich, however, is merely preventative.
Because light damage is cumulative, artworks must be removed from potentially hazardous spots before any noticeable signs of damage appear. “Once you hit the notable point, you haven’t done your due diligence,” Goodman said.
A gift to the College from Graham Gund ’63 H’81 and his wife Ann, “Peace Through Chemistry II” is from a period in Lichtenstein’s career following his most famous works. He developed his comic book style and use of pop culture figures throughout the 1960s with pieces such as “Whaam!” and “Drowning Girl,” both from 1963. By the 1970s, Lichtenstein slowly moved away from pop culture figures and his signature graphic style and spent much of the decade secluded in his Long Island studio.
While “Peace Through Chemistry II” is in the comic book style of many of his 1960s works, most of his 1970s works veered more toward abstraction and references to modernist painters such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne.
Later this year, the exhibition copy will temporarily hang in the original’s spot in Tomsich. After spending the brighter spring and summer months in storage, the original will return to its spot for the late fall and winter. While the original is a lithograph and screen print, the copy will be a high-resolution .tiff image that will be printed in Columbus and placed in an identical frame.