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Moses On Heroic Sculpture

March 2024
1min read

Robert Moses, who m a long municipal career has held, or overwhelmed, many important jobs in New York City, was asked last April to speak before the National Sculpture Society on the subject of public monuments; the following excerpts, used with his kind permission, are from those remarks.

… The sculptor has always been handicapped by the ancient curse on idolatry and the graven image. This inhibition is, however, avoided by the modernist, who simply makes his figures unrecognizable.

Huge abstract outdoor sculpture is now sponsored by the New York City parks department. One such sculpture, a gigantic, contorted steel spiral worm called “Number Three,” is painted bright orange, is thirteen feet high, weighs a ton, and is termed beautiful by my friend Commissioner August Heckscher. This futile steel caterpillar reminds one of the Laocoon family in Virgil squeezed to death by a huge serpent. But when the Romans sculptured a snake, it was a real, honest-to-God sinuous serpent with muscle and oomph, not an amorphous red crawler with no beginning or end.

I like particularly the yarn about the family which moved to the suburbs. A small boy kept begging his father to take him back to see the Central Park Zoo and the statue of Sherman. So the father took him to lunch at The Plaza and across Sherman Square to the zoo. The boy was delighted and asked: “Dad, who is that riding on Sherman?” In modern art you are lucky to be able to distinguish the horse from the rider.

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