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Modern Head by Roy Lichtenstein

Modern Head

Roy Lichtenstein, Modern Head, 1974/1990, painted stainless steel, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Jeffrey H. Loria in loving memory of his sister, Harriet Loria Popowitz

The Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired the monumental sculpture Modern Head by Roy Lichtenstein, a major figure in the pop art movement, in 2008.

Modern Head stands 31 feet tall and is made of stainless steel painted blue. The sculpture is part of a series Lichtenstein began in the late 1960s that explored the idea of creating images of human figures that look like machines. This concept pervaded the artist's work throughout his career.

Lichtenstein created the first Modern Head in 1974 out of wood that was painted blue. In 1989 he produced an edition of four in brushed steel. In 1990 the artist painted one a vibrant blue, making the sculpture in American Art's collection a unique work.

Silhouetted against the urban skyline, the flat planes and curvilinear geometric forms of the sculpture blend the streamlined industrial style of 1930s art deco architecture and design with references to Picasso and Apollo, the Greek god of the arts.

In 1996, Modern Head was installed by the Public Art Fund of New York City in Battery Park City, one block from the World Trade Center. The sculpture survived the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with only surface scratches and was temporarily used by the FBI as a message board during its investigations. The sculpture was removed from the site on November 9, 2001, and was subsequently on view at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York, and at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida.

The sculpture is installed on the grounds of the Museum's main building at the corner of Ninth and F streets, N.W.