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Inverted Q

Pop-artist Claes Oldenburg wanted to reimagine what a public monument could be like. Turning his back on the tradition of depicting grand historical figures in bronze, he looked to ordinary, everyday subjects. In the process, he asks us to question what a public sculpture is and should be. Inverted Q was originally designed for the downtown library in Akron, Ohio. Inspired by the library as a repository for language, and the bigger idea of the ways in which we use language to construct and understand the world around us, Oldenburg chose to flip the letter Q upside down. He also took the linear shape of the letter and fattened it into a bulbous form. Oldenburg loved the large balloons that accompany parades, and he also like the idea of making the letter into a tire shape because the Goodyear and Firestone companies are both located in Akron. He rotated the Q because, as he says, “a Q with its tail buried wouldn't be a Q at all.”

Taken out of its ordinary context, isolated from the rest of the alphabet, fattened up and flipped over, the Q is almost unrecognizable, just like this work is almost unrecognizable as a public monument. Oldenburg’s playful Q asks us to really look at the form of the letter, finding other shapes and references in it.

1988
Sculpture
72.0 x 70.0 x 63.0 in
1996.1

Where you'll find this

Ulrich Museum of Art
Permanent collection