“Roy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961-1968” opens and closes, quite fittingly, with doors. “Knock Knock,” a 1961 drawing, greets visitors entering the single-room exhibition. The title words splay from an all-white door, its shape defined by heavy, even black lines. Short marks indicate the thwap of invisible knuckles. Later, after circling the perimeter, you step into a nook. Inside stands a real, three-dimensional door, the only remnant of Lichtenstein’s full-room installation at the 1967 Aspen Festival of Contemporary Art. Like the drawing, the door is white outlined in black, and a hand has struck, this time leaving a more phonetic NOK!! NOK!!
The pieces are remarkably similar. Indeed, the entire exhibition focuses on Lichtenstein’s most familiar style. The 55 drawings — on display as a group for the first time — borrow images from commercial illustration, advertisements and comic books. Many feature Lichtenstein’s iconic Benday dots. Though narrow in scope, the exhibition, at the Morgan Library through January 2, 2011, reveals the impact of small adjustments. The drawings, stripped of stylistic variation and color, train your eye on the development of Lichtenstein’s technique.