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Modern Head by Roy Lichtenstein on the Ohio State University campus. (H.C. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, 2018, all rights reserved)

Ohio State Celebrates Dedication of Roy Lichtenstein Modern Head Sculpture

Modern Head by Ohio State University alumnus Roy  Lichtenstein is the university’s newest piece of public art. Located in the North Academic Corridor, this sculpture was a gift of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation with fabrication costs funded in part by the Ohio Percent for Art program. (H.C. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, 2018, all rights reserved)On a campus of more than 60,000 students, it can be hard to stand out. But measuring 31 feet tall and made of shiny brushed stainless steel, a newcomer to the Ohio State University’s North Academic Corridor will likely not have any trouble getting noticed.

Modern Head
, a sculpture by artist Roy Lichtenstein, was officially dedicated during a ceremony on Ohio State’s Columbus campus on Sept. 11. During remarks shared beneath the sculpture, Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake said that the piece is a lasting tribute to Lichtenstein, who received both his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the university in addition to teaching studio art classes there in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

“There is no greater alumnus from our institution with a greater impact on modern American art than Roy Lichtenstein,” Drake said. “Thinking about the time and change of our seasons, this sculpture will have a different context as the weather changes and people go by. It will continue to be a part of our landscape and who we are. We are very pleased to be able to feature it and are so thankful to those supporting its presence on our campus.”

Modern Head is a gift of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, a private operating foundation established in 1998 to “facilitate public access to the work of Roy Lichtenstein and the art and artists of his time,” according to its website.

The Modern Head on Ohio State’s campus is a special 2018 cast inspired by an original, smaller sculptural form Lichtenstein created in 1969. In 1973, a large version of the form was commissioned by the owners of a shopping mall in Arcadia, California, and in 1989, Lichtenstein agreed to produce four more sculptures, including two stainless steel casts, one artist’s proof, and one blue-painted stainless steel version.

These other Modern Head sculptures are located at Matsumoto Dental University in Shiojiri, Nagano, Japan; Yale University; and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem—although the sculpture is currently on loan to Daniel Park, Jerusalem. The blue-painted version can be seen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Ohio State’s Modern Head is the only one in the series that has been fabricated since Lichtenstein’s death in 1997. Fabrication of the sculpture was completed by Rhode Island-based Amaral Custom Fabrication in collaboration with Connecticut-based Lippincott, LLC—the original fabricator of the 1989 Modern Head sculptures—and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Fabrication costs were funded in part through the Ohio Percent for Art program, which provides funds for works of art for new or renovated public buildings with appropriations of more than $4 million. The Percent for Art legislation, which became effective July 1, 1990, provides that 1 percent of the total appropriation is allocated for the acquisition, commissioning, and installation of artwork.

At the dedication, Ohio Arts Council (OAC) Executive Director Donna S. Collins credited the combined efforts of Ohio State, the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, and Ohio’s Percent for Art program that resulted in such a special piece of art coming to Columbus.

“This is a unique dedication because the investment made by the state through the Percent for Art program was multiplied many times over with the generous support of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. This collaboration has added significant public value to the art collection on Ohio State’s campus,” she said.
Congratulations to President Drake and to the Lichtenstein Foundation and family for bringing a truly exceptional representation of Roy’s artistic career to this campus. It will continue to inspire and engage students, faculty, and the public for decades to come.”

In addition to the installation of Modern Head between Smith and McPherson Laboratories, Lichtenstein’s connection to Ohio State will also be preserved through two new endowed chair positions in the College of Arts and Sciences. At a luncheon ceremony also held on Sept. 11, Columbus-based visual artist and writer Carmen Winant was selected as the inaugural Roy Lichtenstein chair of studio art, while Jody Patterson of Ohio State’s Department of History of Art was selected as the inaugural Roy Lichtenstein Foundation chair of art history. The endowment of these two chairs was made possible through a
$6 million gift to the university from the Lichtenstein Foundation announced in January 2017.

Addressing the luncheon guests, Winant recalled learning about Lichtenstein while attending undergraduate classes at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She said she had recently searched through boxes of old essays to find a page of old class notes from a lecture on Lichtenstein given by American art historian and UCLA professor George Baker.

“I did find a page of dense notes, I believe it was on the origins of the post-modern, and from that scrawl, I extracted these lines: ‘R.L.: deep experimentation. Cross-genre, cross-class structure. To consider: illusion vs. elusion. Satire? Threat?’ And beneath all of that, I wrote in all capital letters: ‘R.L.: FEMALE PROTAGONISTS REVISING AND CRITIQUING EXPECTATIONS OF GENDER AND AGENCY,” said Winant, who received an OAC Individual Excellence Award for art criticism in May 2018. “I am extremely honored to carry Roy Lichtenstein’s name in the title of my position. It reminds me in different ways every day of not only what he gave to this institution, but the way in which he paved the way for my own practice.”

In his remarks, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Executive Director Jack Cowart shared an excerpt from Lichtenstein’s 1949 Ohio State MFA thesis that described the artist’s musings on the value of artistic creation.

“He wrote, ‘Art is mysterious but definable. It is mysterious as a thing but definable as a way. Therefore, you must use your hand to make the felt thing seen rather than your eyes …. The truth of nature’s structure comes to you through work,’” Cowart said. “He worked every day in the studio he possibly could. He liked to be in the studio. He liked to work on work. He liked to think about work—and not what he did yesterday, but what he was going to do tomorrow.”

For Ohio State’s Modern Head, tomorrow—and the tomorrows that will inevitably follow—will be spent towering over the rush of students walking to class, the handful of tour groups strolling down the sidewalk, and the other daily sights of campus life. Reflecting on the lustrous sculpture gleaming behind him, Cowart said Lichtenstein’s legacy will live on at his alma mater and serve as an inspiration for the next generation of artists.

“We hope it’s set to engage students and visitors for many years to come,” he said. “By this, we honor not only Roy, but also the best ambitions of the Ohio State University.”

To learn more about the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, visit


The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist
Video by Broad and High, Published on Aug. 21, 2019
Featured photo: H.C. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, 2018, all rights reserved

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