It’s hard to miss the new sculpture between Smith and McPherson Chemical laboratories, but its imposing, 31-foot figure isn’t its only significant aspect. The sculpture is “Modern Head,” a piece by influential artist and Ohio State alumnus Roy Lichtenstein.
“Modern Head” was commissioned by the Arts and Memorials Committee and donated by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation in honor of the late artist. The sculpture, installed over the summer, is the latest development in an ongoing relationship between the foundation and Ohio State, which includes two endowed professorships.
Lichenstein, most famous for his pop art paintings, such as “Drowning Girl,” was heavily influenced by his time at the university, Jack Cowart, executive director of RLF, said.
“All of Ohio was, for him, an interesting feed-bed,” Cowart said.
Lichtenstein attended Ohio State for a degree in fine arts in the mid-1940s, and later entered the graduate program for his master’s in fine arts and taught at the university. It was at the university that he met his mentor, art professor Hoyt L. Sherman. Lichtenstein funded the Sherman Studio Art Center in his honor.
“He was doing his MFA and then teaching at the same time. You could see him cycle through a number of interesting subject matter, which we do believe was part of dialogues with art faculty of things that interested them,” Cowart said.
“Modern Head,” first created in 1969, represents an important point in Lichtenstein’s career, Cowart said. The sculpture came at a time when Lichtenstein was producing many art deco and art moderne-inspired paintings, Cowart said, and the sculpture emulates that trend.
Since its initial fabrication, “Modern Head” has been reissued in a larger form for public display. Ohio State’s “Modern Head” joins renditions around the world.
“If it’s in Israel, if it’s in Yale, if it’s in Washington, if it’s in Nagano, it’s kind of an international symbol which has become a logo for this work of the late 1960s, early ‘70s,” Cowart said.
The version erected on Ohio State’s campus is the only “Modern Head” to be fabricated after Lichtenstein’s death, according to the College of Arts and Sciences website.
The sculpture is not the first gift from RLF; according to the Arts and Sciences website, the foundation gave the university $6 million in 2017 for two endowed professorships. Currently the Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Studio Art is occupied by Carmen Winant.
The Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Art History was recently selected and will soon be announced, according to the website.
Gretchen Ritter, executive dean and vice provost for the College of Arts and Sciences, said she is thrilled about how this latest donation will inspire students.
“It’s particularly exciting to have this sculpture here because Roy Lichtenstein is part of the fabric of this campus,” Ritter said in a statement. “He was a student and a faculty member at Ohio State, and I hope that our students and our faculty seeing themselves as part of a tradition that produces something like ‘Modern Head’ will make them dream and see larger futures for themselves.”