For the past 20 years, a piece of Pop Art history has been slowly aging in a Boise storage facility. Roy Lichtenstein's "Wallpaper with Blue Floor Interior"--a massive 8.5-foot by 12.75-foot silkscreened print on paper--is owned by Boise State University, which is just now restoring the work.
"It was donated in the late 1990s by a local businessman who was moving out of town rather urgently," said Richard Young, chair of Boise State's Art Department.
Along with Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein was instrumental in ushering in the Pop Art era. His avant-garde work fused comic book aesthetics, art deco and industrial techniques, creating an instantly recognizable style.
The piece is No. 39 out of 300 printed (one of which belongs to Boise Art Museum), and features a living room scene with blue and yellow flourishes. It combines many of Lichtenstein's textural techniques with a scale rarely seen in prints. In 2012, one of the prints sold at auction for more than $30,000.
A recent storm of events has prompted Boise State to begin restoring the artwork. The warehouse where it had been sitting is relocating and the university is in the process of constructing a new Visual Arts Building, due to be completed in 2016. But inspiration also came from an arts conservation student attending Boise State.
"We have the University Art Collections Committee, which is just now starting to get some traction under its feet," said Holly Gilchrist, fine arts manager at the university, "and we have a student rep on the committee, Alaggio Laurino, who's been very involved. ... He inspired the committee to really start looking at some of the grant opportunities."
But the piece's size adds to both its uniqueness and the difficulty of restoration.
"You just do not see prints this large, typically, and the paper has essentially been adhered to a piece of wood," said Gilchrist.
And according to Young, the print is "pretty well adhered" after 20 years.
"The restoration involves removing the work from the support and then remounting it," he said. "There's also some superficial damage to the outside."
Boise State is still investigating grants for restoration, but Young hopes someone locally may be able to assist in the process.
"Because of its size, it can't be shipped anywhere, so it would be nice if there was someone locally who did have the expertise to tackle this project," he said. "It probably weighs a couple of hundred pounds."
Though it may need some work, Gilchrist says she's still in awe of the print.
"It's dirty and dusty, and even though there's some minor surface damage, it was still really inspirational to be standing in front of it, within inches of an actual Lichtenstein of that scale," she said. "It was so awesome, and I think the university community would love to have it in its presence, as well."
Young agreed, adding: "It's definitely one of the most interesting, well-known works in the university's collection. It is quintessential Lichtenstein."