Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gilded Gargoyles on American Radiator Building

Above the second floor of the American Standard or American Radiator Building at 40 West 40th St. (south side of Bryant Park), designed by Raymond Hood and completed in 1924, eight gilded gargoyles glitter against the building's black brick facade. According to one website, the gargoyles symbolize the "transformation of matter into energy." Looking at them, I keep wondering just what kind of energy we are talking about. Roaring Twenties, indeed.

This one has the word "Fever" beneath. Perhaps all the others had a title as well, but in most cases they seem to have been painted over too often to be legible.

The building just to the west, completed in 1937, imitates the American Standard Building's facade but has eight more gargoyles in a noticeably different style.

Writing something, possibly drafting a design?

Something mechanical, with a hammer.

Pouring metal into a mold? Look at those abs: very similar to the ones on Lawrie's Atlas at Rockefeller Center, which (not coincidentally) was dedicated in 1937, the year this building was completed. No one says who created these gargoyles. Lawrie had been sculpting long enough that the figures might well have been the work of an eager imitator. The burly-man esthetic was related to Social Realism in the U.S.S.R., a country wholeheartedly admired by a startling number of American intellectuals and artists in the 1930s. (On why I dislike Lawrie's Atlas and which nearby Atlas I prefer, see Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan #29.)

A blow torch?

A furnace of some sort.

A plumber??? He's the only one who hasn't got a cloak flying behind him.

Don't miss the view from across Bryant Park of the top of the American Standard Building: it's gorgeous, especially when the sun's out. The building is now a boutique hotel, the Bryant Park, with a bar that gives you an excuse to sit around admiring the lobby.

I love this photo. It's not taken with a wide-angle lens - it's a curved building shot through a round arcade. (See below.) Northwest corner 57th St. and Lexington Ave.


"van Vliet" Art Blog said...

I have always admired the romantic figures as you show here, also those in Soviet propaganda art and other such pieces. I know, having worked with my hands that there is always mental process, even genius sometimes, behind great physical accomplishments. Any great production requires the raw material, the tools, and generally the physical input. The fitter person succeeds with greater ease than the unfit. So most of these works, or to that extent, display these attributes, even if unintended.

Socialist work generally has some idea of the worker as a cog in a great social machine. When forced, we know the consequence is less then it could be on many levels. However when cooperatively undertaken it is a beauty to behold. Each individual contributing his talent and taking pride in that contribution. When the individual stands alone with his own private work, then the sun radiates that all who share his values take notice.

I love the work you are doing Diane. Thank you.

Walt said...

Those little gargoyles (or, er, let's call them figures) on the original 1924 Radiator Building can be traced back to Rene Paul Chambellan, who collaborated with Raymond Hood on all of his major buildings, and collaborated with Lawrie at Rockefeller Center.

'FEVER', though, that's really interesting. Wonder what the other ones say. And why FEVER.

Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

In re "Something mechanical, with a hammer"...

He's the same man as the following figure who is filling a mold with molten metal. In the first figure, he's packing sand into his sand-casting mold. See, the casting box and his hair are the same.