Nivola in New York | Figure in Field
Thu, Jan 23, 2020 6:30pm - Sun, Mar 15, 2020 7pm
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The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, the Costantino Nivola Foundation, and the Italian Cultural Institute of New York present Nivola in New York I Figure in Field, an exhibition of the work of Italian sculptor Costantino Nivola (1911-1988), known for his large-scale bas-reliefs, murals, and free-standing sculptural installations created in collaboration with architects. On view January 23 through March 15 in the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, the exhibition is the first-ever to tell the story of Nivola’s built New York City projects through maquettes and sculptures, original drawings, site-specific photographs, and related ephemera. The exhibition also features a timeline outlining 62 projects that Nivola made in collaboration with architects over approximately 40 years. In addition to the exhibition, The Cooper Union will present a variety of related programming (dates to follow), including a panel on the role of public art, as well as off-site educational workshops and tours of Nivola’s work throughout the city.
New York is home to the largest gathering of Nivola’s public artworks — 21 pieces across all five boroughs, at least 17 of which still exist. A free pocket guide will be produced for Nivola in New York: Figure in Field to encourage visitors to learn more about all of these works and see them in situ.
Born in Sardinia, Nivola was already a practicing artist in Italy before fleeing fascism with his Jewish wife and ultimately settling in New York in 1939. Eventually he and his family moved to Long Island, where he discovered and perfected his unique cement carving process and sandcasting that included reverse sculpting molds in wet sand and filling them with plaster and concrete. These processes allowed him to work with the materials often shared by the buildings he embellished.
The gallery exhibition highlights four of these projects, starting with Nivola’s first public commission for the Olivetti showroom. For the Fifth Avenue store’s showroom’s interior, he created a 15-foot-high by 76-foot-long wall relief in 1953. After the showroom closed in 1970 the relief was eventually moved to Harvard University’s Science Center. Next is another of Nivola’s early New York projects, a 1953 sandcast bas-relief cartouche on the south façade of Coney Island’s William E. Grady High School. The third featured work is the Stephen Wise Recreation Area — a public plaza created in 1962 between two housing blocks on the Upper West Side that includes a fountain, a group of cast-concrete horse sculptures, a bas relief, and a sgraffito mural that define specific areas for play and relaxation. The final work on view is Nivola’s last sculptural commission completed in the United States: a series of bronze statuettes and plaques he created in 1984 at the 19th Precinct Combined Police and Fire Facilities on the Upper East Side to document police and fire activities.
This exhibition is co-curated by Steven Hillyer, Director, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive at The Cooper Union and Roger Broome, a Brooklyn-based architect and alumnus of the school, with scientific advice from Giuliana Altea and Antonella Camarda.
Nivola in New York | Figure in Field is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 6:30pm
Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, 2nd Floor
7 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
Thursday, January 23 – Sunday, March 15, 2020
Tuesday – Friday 2pm-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 12pm-7pm
Closed February 14 – 16, 2020
Located in the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, 7 East 7th Street, 2nd Floor, between Third and Fourth Avenues