10:19 AM

7 things to know about the Modern Head sculpture

Standing over onlookers at 31 feet high, it's hard to miss Modern Head, a new public sculpture by world-renowned artist Roy Lichtenstein on campus in between Smith and McPherson Laboratories. Here are seven things to know about the impressive new work of art:

1. The artist, Roy Lichtenstein, is an Ohio State alumnus.

Lichtenstein went on to be one of the most influential and innovative artists of the second half of the 20th century and a leading figure in the 1960s Pop Art movement. His first fully achieved paintings were inspired by comic strips and advertisements and rendered in a style mimicking the crude printing processes of newspaper reproduction (“Whaam!" and "Drowning Girl" are two of the most famous). These paintings reinvigorated the American art scene and altered the history of modern art. After his initial triumph in the early 1960s, he went on to create more than 5,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, murals and other objects celebrated for their wit and invention.

2. Lichtenstein first created this specific Modern Head sculptural form in 1969.

As a student of art history, Lichtenstein surely knew about the thousands of years of artworks depicting flat profile heads and portraits. He started using “head” forms himself in his late 1960s “Modern Series” paintings and prints. With his characteristic mix of curiosity, historical admiration and irony, he was particularly evoking previous 20th century International Art Deco and Art Moderne styles. The specific sculptural form seen in Ohio State’s Modern Head first came to life in 1969 for a small brass multiple edition of 75, produced in 1970 by Gemini, GEL in Los Angeles.

3. The first monumental Modern Head was conceived in 1973.

Lichtenstein was commissioned by the owners of the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall (formerly Santa Anita Fashion Park) in Arcadia, California. Fabricated in 1974 by Tomkins Tool in Gardena, California, this initial version was a blue tinted polyurethane on wood over a metal armature and built for placement inside the mall. After this version had degraded, it was removed from the mall and its parts were acquired by two New York gallery owners. In 1989, Lichtenstein agreed with them to produce a second edition of two brushed, stainless steel casts, plus an artist’s proof. He also agreed to an additional unique cast in blue painted stainless steel. With new interest in contemporary public sculpture, all were fabricated for outdoor placement.

4. These Modern Heads, each produced in 1989, are now located around the world.

The casts — all 31 feet tall and made in painted or unpainted stainless steel — can be found at:

  • Matsumoto Dental University in Shiojiri, Nagano, Japan
  • Yale University
  • The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (now on loan to Daniel Park, Jerusalem)
  • The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. (home of the unique blue version)

5. Ohio State’s is the only sculpture in the Modern Head series that was fabricated after Lichtenstein’s death in 1997.

Other monumental sculptures — mostly “Brushstroke Sculptures” — designed by the artist have been authorized and fabricated posthumously by the Lichtenstein family and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. These large-scale sculptures are in the collections of major museums and private owners in Europe and America.

The Modern Head at Ohio State was considered most appropriate as a work for the university. This selection by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation came in response to the special request of Ohio State’s Arts and Memorials Committee in partnership with the Ohio Percent for Art program (administered by the Ohio Arts Council). This final, special "hors commerce" (not for sale) version’s fabrication costs were offset by Ohio Percent for Art, with the remaining value being a gift of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation in memory of Roy Lichtenstein.

6. Ohio State's Modern Head was fabricated by Amaral Custom Fabrication.

Modern Head was fabricated by Amaral Custom Fabrication in Providence, Rhode Island, in collaboration with Lippincott, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut, and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation in New York City. Lippincott, the original fabricator of the 1989 Modern Heads, is no longer fabricating, but agreed to share its original engineering blueprints and design expertise.

Although the other Modern Heads came to life between 1969 and 1989, the newly created piece for Ohio State was made following the same processes as the others and using the artist’s personally chosen successor fabricator, Amaral Custom Fabrication. Lichtenstein’s lifetime sculpture assistant was directly involved in the making of each Modern Head from 1989 up to this final version.

7. The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation also recently funded two endowed chairs at Ohio State.

In 2017, Dorothy Lichtenstein and the Board of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation announced a $6 million gift to the university to permanently endow two high-level named chairs: the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Endowed Chair of Art History and the Roy Lichtenstein Endowed Chair of Studio Art. Carmen Winant was selected as the inaugural Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Studio Art last July, and a successful search for the endowed chair of art history was completed this spring, with a public announcement forthcoming.

Join Ohio State and the College of Arts and Sciences for a public dedication of Modern Head at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, on 18th Avenue between Smith and McPherson Laboratories.