New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rocket Thrower

The thing about public sculpture is that once it is created it, it isn't going away and when it is a large work, it really can't be ignored. Regardless of criticism, a work can take on a life and persona of its own, due to its pure existence, irrespective of aesthetic. Even a work that may generally be regarded as an abomination will often take on a certain charm and in time become loved like an ugly duckling. The Eiffel Tower is an excellent example. Considered an eyesore by many at the time of its construction, it weathered quite well. Here is a comment made at the time by William Watson's US Government Printing Office publication of 1892 Paris Universal Exposition: Civil Engineering, Public Works, and Architecture.
"And during twenty years we shall see, stretching over the entire city, still thrilling with the genius of so many centuries, we shall see stretching out like a black blot the odious shadow of the odious column built up of riveted iron plates." The Eiffel Tower was originally built in 1889 as the entrance for the Exposition Universelle, a World's Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution. Plans were to have it torn down, but it remained. It is now generally seen in a positive light and its presence is a major icon on the Parisian skyline.
The Rocket Thrower in the photo was created for the 1964 World's Fair and is located in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, just a stroll away from the Unisphere.
It was designed by Donald De Lue. From the NYC parks website: "He designed the Rocket Thrower as a heroic, 43-foot high bronze figure hurling a rocket heavenward with his right hand, and reaching for a constellation of gilded stars with his left; this version was based on designs for the theme of man conquering space ..."
This sculpture was met with mixed reviews. The New York Times art reviewer, John CanadayDaVinci, found the piece “the most lamentable monster, making Walt Disney look like Leonardo.” Robert Moses (organizer of the Fair), attempting to bolster the artist’s fragile ego, consoled De Lue by remarking, “this is the greatest compliment you could have…[Canaday] hates everything that is good . . .” Read more about it here.
When I happened upon this sculpture, I found it quite striking and not at all a lamentable monster. But perhaps I have become inured too bad sculpture or I am not art critic enough ...


Lily Hydrangea said...

I like this photo more than I like the sculpture.Though I'd rather see more public art than not regardless of the risk involved. There is always someone who will like it.
Even if one doesn't like it, art makes us more civilized.I think it happens through a sort of osmosis.

Terry B said...

I have to say, I agree with Mr. Canaday on this one. It falls into the category I call bowling trophy art. I was stunned to see it had been made as recently as the '60s; it feels much older, much more antiquated.

That said, I agree with Lily about public art's civilizing influence. I'm always happy to see examples of it, even if I don't love certain pieces.

Juergen Kuehn said...

I love this great perspective.
Greetings from Germany