This post presents sculpture in a manner similar to my painting post of August 27, 2015. In this instance, I have selected 32 photographs documenting sculpture which happened to catch my attention in my wanderings last year–mostly, but not entirely, in New York City.
The sculptures run the gamut from large, hard to miss, free-standing pieces to smaller works, some of which are relief sculptures, easy to overlook unless we are gazing down at our feet.
As usual, my inclination leans toward capturing interesting contexts rather than providing straight-forward, ideal photos of a particular work of art. And so, several of my pictures are simply details. Also, in the case of the final two works, I take the liberty of designating as sculpture two perfectly functioning, mass-produced machines.
|Albert Paley, Ambiguous Response, 2012, detail, Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA|
|Louise Bourgeois, The Couple, 2007-2009, Cheim Read Gallery, Manhattan, NYC|
|Mark di Suvero, Raft, 1963, Park Avenue Armory, Manhattan, NYC|
As I see it, this early, representational, small-scale piece by Mark di Suvero is not so different from his later, large-scaled, abstract work. Whether early or late in his career, di Suvero remains wedded to compositions of powerful, diagonal gestures and rough, re-used materials. The main difference is scale. And when working at a scale that requires cranes, hoists and industrial welding equipment for assembly, one naturally turns to abstraction and non-objective forms. We can find one example here in New York at the south-east corner of Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan.
|Barnett Newman, Broken Obelisk, 1963-1967, detail of Base, Garden, Museum of Modern Art, Manhattan, NYC|
|Ewerdt Hilgemann, Dancers, 2013, Park Avenue at 59th Street, Manhattan, NYC|
The German sculptor, Ewerdt Hilgemann, made seven sculptures that were exhibited on Park Avenue from August 1-November 5, 2014. He placed them–at the invitation of the Fund for Park Avenue Sculpture Committee and NYC Parks–between 52nd and 67th Streets and called the installation “Moments in a Stream.”
In the case of these two Dancers at 59th Street, one is a rectangular tube of Cor-Ten steel while its twin partner is made of highly-polished stainless steel. Hilgemann calls these “implosion” sculptures, and his process for forming them is as fascinating as it is simple. Essentially, it is something most everyone has done after draining the liquid contents out of a plastic bottle: suck out the air and let the atmospheric air pressure that surrounds us re-mold the bottle.
Of course, Hilgemann uses a vacuum pump instead of his mouth. He can’t determine the exact form his pristine steel tubes will assume once they begin to crumple, but he can control the degree of deformation by either stopping the pump or by pumping out more air. Here is a video [3:05] of the making of Habakuk 1, one of the other pieces that he installed on Park Avenue.
|Rachel Feinstein, Folly: Flying Ship, 2014, Madison Square Park, Manhattan, NYC|
Building on her reference to the Commedia dell’arte, she admits that “The Flying Ship came from a theatrical skit concerning Punchinello attempting to fly his ship to the moon.”
|Linda Cunningham, Urban Regeneration 2, 2014, Westchester Square, Bronx, NYC|
But the urban garden of the Bronx demands a radically different aesthetic and philosophy. And so, those sections of rusting steel and their insistent gestures refocus our meditation from the natural, geologic processes which formed those stones to our urban environment and the threats posed by industrial reality on nature.
|Bernard (Tony) Rosenthal, Alamo, 1967, Astor Place, Manhattan, NYC|
As we see in the above photograph, Alamo still interacts with the public….and it still would except that it has been removed temporarily while Astor Place undergoes reconstruction and the sculpture is restored and repainted.
|Sebastián, The Torch of Friendship, 2002, detail with signature, Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX|
|Gregg Lefevre, Library Walk: Georges Braque, 1998, East 40th Street sidewalk, Manhattan, NYC|
|Manhattan Island Native American Settlements in 1600, 2002, Union Square pavement, Manhattan, NYC|
The Braque plaque is one of 96 quotations embedded in the 41st Street sidewalk (both sides) between Park and Fifth Avenues. This Library Walk, of course, leads directly to the main entrance of the New York Public Library, which sponsored the relief sculptures along with the Grand Central Partnership and the New Yorker magazine.
The lower photograph shows a plaque which maps lower Manhattan in 1600, and is one of 22 bronze reliefs set into the sidewalk surrounding Union Square. Each one of these documents or celebrates some aspect of history or labor history as they relate to the important activities/developments that took place in the area we now know as Union Square.
|Berthold Nebel, The Council [top] & Buffalo Hunt [bottom], Doors for the original Museum of the American Indian, 1928, Audubon Terrace (West 155th Street), Manhattan, NYC|
|Eugene Pfister, Grave Marker for John James Audubon, Base, 1893, Trinity Church Cemetery & Mausoleum, Harlem, Manhattan, NYC|
|Plan of the Alamo, Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX|
|Daniel Chester French (with Adolph A Weinman), The Four Continents: Africa, 1903-1907, Alexander Hamilton U. S. Custom House, Bowling Green, Manhattan, NYC|
|Daniel Chester French (with Adolph A Weinman), The Four Continents: Asia, 1903-1907, Alexander Hamilton U. S. Custom House, Bowling Green, Manhattan, NYC|
|Deborah Butterfield, Josephson, 2013, Danese Corey gallery, Manhattan, NYC|
|Deborah Butterfield, Josephson, 2013, detail, Danese Corey gallery, Manhattan, NYC|
In a revealing video [5:54] of 2012 that helps to explain her process of transforming wood to bronze, Butterfield equates those branches with drawing lines and sees them as generators of energy. She also says she always starts with the body, which then “tells” her “what happens to the neck and head.” Thus, her process of generating a life-like and expressive horse from the body shares a famous parallel in Michelangelo’s sculptures, his Slaves in particular, where he begins with the torso in order to free the spirit from the marble matter imprisoning it.
|Xavier Figueroa, The Transfer, 2014, Bronx Museum of Art, “Bronx Speaks: No Boundaries” show, Bronx, NYC|
|Michael Ferris, Jr., Joe, 2013, Bronx Museum of Art, “Bronx Speaks: No Boundaries” show, Bronx, NYC|
Where he does indicate depth, it is from creating actual depth through relief, as in Joe’s hair. One might infer that Ferris’ heads are influenced by the explosion of tattoos in the past two decades. However, the real source of his abstractly patterned intarsia surfaces derives from his family background. He grew up at home (in Chicago) fascinated by the inlaid wood patterns of two Middle Eastern backgammon tables that belonged to his Lebanese father.
|Beatrice Goldfine, Golda Meir, 1984, Golda Meir Square, Midtown, Manhattan, NYC|
Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel and the original “Iron Lady” of 20th century politics, became only the second historically important woman to be honored with a public statue in New York in 1984. This was a decade after she retired as Prime Minister.
But, then, the first historically important woman to be honored with a public statue in New York and most definitely the very first “Iron Lady”–Joan of Arc–had to wait some 484 years after she died. According to Allison Meier, New York today has only five such public statues.
Amazingly, I have found almost nothing on-line about the Philadelphia sculptor, Beatrice Goldfine. I encourage anyone who knows about her or has easy access to printed academic literature on her to start a Wikipedia entry.
|Radcliffe Bailey, Pensive (Portrait of W.E.B. Du Bois), 2013, No Longer Empty show: “If You Build It,” Sugar Hill, Manhattan, NYC|
As Dennis Looney writes in his 2011 book, Freedom Readers: The African American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy, “in Dante they [African Americans] find not only a politically engaged poet who speaks truth to power…they also find a master craftsman of poetic language who forges a new vernacular out of the linguistic diversity around him…this linguistic task is the ultimate political act.”
Pensive might appear no more than a simple portrait. In actuality, it is a political statement in support of Du Bois’ political militancy for black equality as well as of Dante’s political positions, which led to his exile from the City State of Florence.
In reference to Pensive, its sculptor, Radcliffe Bailey, stresses the importance of Du Bois’ concept of ‘double consciousness,’ in which black Americans are forced to see themselves through the eyes of others. With this in mind, I also would suggest that Pensive acts as the sculptural companion to the recent book by this years MacArthur winner, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me.
|Anna Hyatt Huntington, El Cid Campeador, 1927, Audubon Terrace, Manhattan, NYC|
|Lee Lawrie, Two Marys, 1912-1915, Mullion Sculpture on main façade, Church of the Intercession, Washington Heights, Manhattan, NYC|
|Lee Lawrie, Tomb of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, 1929, Church of the Intercession, Washington Heights, Manhattan, NYC|
For Goodhue’s effigy, which lies below this arch, Lawrie insured its accuracy by using Goodhue’s actual death mask as well as the post-mortem castings of his hands.
|Fernando Botero, Adam, 1990, detail, Time Warner Center, Manhattan, NYC|
|Arturo di Modica, Charging Bull, 1989, Bowling Green, Lower Manhattan, NYC|
|Attilio Piccirilli, Courage, detail of the USS Maine National Monument (1901-1913), Columbus Circle, Manhattan, NYC|
|Jesus Ygnacio Dominguez, Fred Lebow, 1994, Central Park at East 90th Street, Manhattan, NYC|
|John Quincy Adams Ward, Statue of George Washington, 1882, Federal Hall (26 Wall Street), Lower Manhattan, NYC|
What replaces that King James Version of the Bible, we realize as we look out from behind the standing figure, is the New York Stock Exchange. Thus, J.Q.A. Ward has George Washington blessing “the global temple of capitalism.”
|Customized 1949 Chevrolet, West 25th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan, NYC|
|Steve Heller, Fintasia, Customized 1959 Cadillac, Boiceville, NY|
Scott Wagner says
Thanks for the great angles and perspectives, and especially the comments that provide interesting contexts. The bronze horse video was particularly inspiring- such a powerful, specific way of going about art.