EXPO CHICAGO/2014 Highlight: "Girl with a Spray Can" by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

Girl with a Spray Can was first printed in Wallace Ting’s book 1¢ Life, often viewed as a compact visual manifesto of the sixties. Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s color lithographs were printed on pages 118-119. This piece offers a unique juxtaposition. The right panel of the diptych consists of a reference to the simple printing process of using Ben-day dots (which dates back to 1879). The left side of the diptych consists of a small segment of a comic-strip imagery for which Lichtenstein became quite famous. This piece is the first instance of Lichtenstein featuring a blonde girl in his works, iconography which now is considered some of the most desirable in his oeuvre.

This print came to The Conservation Center with slight surface deformations and non-archival hinges. The water-activated adhesive on the linen tapes had gummed, resulting in hinges that were not safe for the piece. Additionally, as the print was framed a long time ago, our Senior Conservation Framing Conservator Toby Joyce first checked for acidic housing. Sure enough, the piece was beginning to exhibit selective acid burning on the verso. The housing would have continued to affect the print if left in contact with it over time. The print also exhibited slight surface deformations from being cut from 1¢ Life.

Two of our paper conservators, Brian Kapernekas and Bozena Szymanski, used poultice techniques to remove the non-archival hinges. They then surface cleaned the lithograph, and humidified and flattened the sheet locally to reduce surface deformations. Toby re-mounted the piece using archival housing materials and re-hinged the piece using kozo hinges and wheat starch paste.

Buzz Ruttenberg, the owner of this piece, requested the use of Museum Glass—a conservation grade, anti-reflective glass that shields against UV light rays. This allows the inks to be protected from fading while the piece is displayed.

Since Buzz had the foresight to bring this Pop art masterpiece to The Center to have the entire framing package assessed, he was able to prevent further damage and preserve it for years to come.