Monday, October 8, 2012

Is that a Henry Moore?

Albers, Botero, Fonseca, Miro, Stella and Others
     Finding Great Art in NYC Office Buildings
Is that a Henry Moore? Solow Art  Gallery

New York City is the art capital of this country. People come from the world over for the treasures of the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick, Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The MET with its significant collections of European and American Masters, Egyptian, Islamic, Asian and African art attracted over 6 million visitors more than the New York Yankees and Mets combined.

Essential works are not limited to institutions and galleries. They are in city’s parks, plazas, public and commercial buildings. The most famous example is Frederic Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York Bay.

Not as obvious are the works of two artists hanging in the lobby of the Time Life Building across from Radio City Music Hall. Several thousand people stream through here weekly. I know. I have worked at Time Inc. for many years.  I do not remember seeing anyone read the information cards of either of the two artists. Okay! People are hustling to and from their jobs. I once spotted Time Magazine’s art critic, the late Robert Hughes, eyeing the 40 by 17 foot Josef Alber mural, one of the artists. 

It is different fifteen blocks south and two avenues east at the Josef Albers in America exhibit at the Morgan Library I attended in early September. Scores of people filled the exhibit’s gallery to review 80 of his works. 

Josef Albers Portals 

The following is list of NYC buildings with noteworthy artwork.

TIME LIFE BUILDING, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, 50-51th Streets
• Josef Albers: Portals 1961. Murals in bronze and two shades of Carrara glass create a design of receding square in architectural relationships for an illusionary interplay light of and shade
Albers, born 1888 in Germany was a painter, sculpture, art theorist and educator. He is best known for his series of paintings, Homage to the Square. Influenced by Mexican architecture he came to the United States in 1933. He died in 1976. (Located - lobby’s west end)

Fritz Garner's  Relational Painting #88 

• Fritz Glarner:  Relational Painting #88 1960. American Painter. Intent of arrangement of color in space is to create a new kind and depth – artist’s theme of the abstract mural to be the rhythm and movement of the city. Glarner, born 1899 in Zurich, came to the U.S. in 1936. A disciple of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian he limited his colors to red, yellow, blue and shades of gray.  He used diagonal lines to change rectangles into trapezoids and altered rhythmical patterns. He died in 1972.  (Lobby’s east end)

1251 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS at 49-50th Streets
• Pablo Picasso:  Mercure, Tapestry authorized by the artist, is a reproduction of a theater curtain painted by Picasso for the ballet, Mercure. Special commission for 1251, woven in Province originally for the Musee d’art Moderne Paris. This is Picasso. Need I say more. (Lobby east end)

Lichtenstein's Blue Brushstroke 

787 SEVENTH AVENUE between 52-53rd Streets
• Roy Lichtenstein: Blue Brushstroke, (22.3 X 10.8 meters)
Located in the soaring sky lighted lobby, which features a large marble semi circle seating area with landscaping in front of the five-story mural. Lichtenstein, born 1923 in New York, was a giant in American Pop Art. A painter, sculptor, printmaker and decorative artist he was initially influenced by the themes of Abstract Expressionism; later works evolved from advertising and comic strips. He died in 1997. (Excellent view from street)

Stella's Il Palassodell (back); Qua! Attaccat! (right) 

375 HUDSON between King Street and West Houston
• Frank Stella: Four works
 Qua! Attaccat! (3.8X) 1987, mixed media on aluminum and etched magnesium. (North, front of lobby)
Il Palassodell 1984, massed media on Scimmie etched and magnesium aluminum and canvas. (North, rear)
Sol Estoril 1981, massed media etched in magnesium. (South, rear)
Sharks IV (4.75X) 1987, massed media on fiberglass money. Combed and aluminum. (South, front) Viewing at 375 is excellent 24/7

599 LEXINGTON AVENUE at 53rd Street,
• Frank Stella: Salto Nel Mio Sacco. Stella, a painter, sculptor and printmaker, was born 1936 in Massachusetts and influenced by the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. 
Two-story tall work is easily viewed from street. 

 Botero's Eve 

• TIME WARNER CENTER 59th Street, Columbus Circle.
Fernando Botero: Adam and Eve bronzes.Sculptor, painter was born 1932 in Columbia.  
These large bronze sculptures are in the lobby. Influenced by Giotto and Piero della Francesca. Botero came to New York in 1960. Moved to Paris in 1973 and starting making sculptures. He begins with clay and then moves to bronze. Creates gigantic, exaggerated fantastical shapes of very heavy people.
Unofficially Adam is hand-on art. Many visitors grab his penis. Good view from street.

 The dark concave sloping north and south facades of this 50-story tower has a large glass-enclosed street level space on the buildings 57th street side, west end, where Sheldon Solow’s Art Foundation showcases about 20 works. Solow, number 113 in the Forbes 400 of richest Americans and the building’s owner, has a distinguished collection of art by Picasso, Matisse, Botticelli, Rothko, Bacon and Caravaggio. Though the gallery has a curator it is never open to the public. 
It is easy to miss it during the day but at night the gallery is extremely well lit and about 16 works are visible from the street. One drawback, bring telephoto lens or binoculars to read the information cards.

There is also:
• Alberto Giacometti: a thin tall man sculpture near the elevator bank past the turnstile. Giacometti is a Swiss born (1901 - 1966) painter and sculpture. In 2010 his Walking Man I sold at auction for a then world record for a work of art for $104.1 million.

Miro's Moonbird  at West 58th St.
On the sidewalk near the building’s 58th Street entrance is a large dark animal sculpture. The man at 9 West’s reception desk said it was a Henry Moore. Three web sites labeled it a Picasso. No it is neither but a  
• Joan Miro: Moonbird, 1966 bronze. Born in 1893 (d1983) in Barcelona, this Catalan painter and sculptor created playful child-like surrealistic works.

345 PARK AVENUE between 51-52nd Streets
• Robert Cook: Dinoceras, a bronze sculpture on the plaza’s south side this skeletal abstract depicts a mammal in motion. Born 1921 in Massachusetts.
• Stuart Davis:  After the Punch Card Fluted #3 woven in France by Pinton S.A. by Gloria F. Ross Tapestry 1989. Davis born 1892 in Philadelphia, died 1964. An Abstract painter, forerunner of the Pop Art movement he captured images of mid-twentieth century New York and jazz.
• Luis Sanguino: Amor 1934 statue. Born 1934 in Spain his statues are all over the world including The Immigrants in Battery Park and his first major work The Valley of the Fallen near Madrid.

• Caio Fonseca: Art Run Fifty-two year old Uruguayan-American raised in Greenwich Village. Abstract artist uses vibrant color and geometric floating shapes. His works are part of MOMA,  MET, and the Whitney Museum permanent collections.

LEVER HOUSE, 390 PARK AVENUE, 53-54th Streets.
The important Lever House Art Collection uses the building’s outdoor plaza and lobby to exhibit its works year round.
Building arcade extends from 57 to 56th Streets. The Marlbourgh Gallery, a tenant in the building, has ten sculptures on exhibit plus another in the lobby. Artists include Fernando Botero, Manolo Valdez and his bronze, Caballero, Tom Otternesss among others.

UBS ART GALLERY at 1285 AVENUE of the AMERICAS  between 51 and 52nd Streets. UBS sponsors four exhibits each year in its lobby to New York area nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.

Lobby viewing allowed during business work hours. Photos not allowed. This is just a small sample of what you may find in NYC commercial and residential buildings.

Photos by Rudi Papiri

Friday, August 31, 2012

Remembering Keith Staulcup

The Cape Man of W51 Street:

Hell's Kitchen Miniature Carousel 

Maker and Community Activist 

I first saw him on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen on my post midnight walk in late July 1977, the summer when serial killer “Son of Sam” Berkowitz terrified the city.

He appeared from the shadows of West 51 Street a tree-lined street of dark chocolate-colored one hundred year old brownstones and five-and-six story tenements with handsome exteriors.

Even on the drug-infested, mugger-laden streets of Hell’s Kitchen peppered with half-naked prostitutes, knife-toting drug dealers, and Eighth Avenue pimps, straight out of the movie Super Fly, dressed in flashy colored suits with matching hats and shoes and driving Cadillac Eldoradoes of the same hue, Keith Staulcup stood out.

He walked slowly, draped in a black Victorian opera cape with a high collar held together by a silver clasp at the neck. He toted a walking cane with a white handle and tip. His cane thumped the sidewalk in cadence with each step he took and punctured the silence of this humid night.

Portly built, slightly balding with round sloping shoulders, full white bushy sideburns, and a thick walrus mustache Staulcup resembled a Dickens character in search of another time  - one with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and gas-lit street lamps.

Who is this guy? What is his story?
Fourteen months later I found out. I met Keith Staulcup at the monthly police community meeting I covered for a neighborhood paper. I arrived early carrying a reporter’s notebook when a man from behind me said, “Our recording secretary is sick. Can you take minutes?” The voice belonged to the caped man. I agreed. Within minutes 80 angry people packed the room.

Staulcup banged the gavel on the table to quiet the crowd. He yelled, “Let’s get started.” The noise continued. He hit the table hard two more times. “Save your gripes for the police.”
As president of both the West 51st Street Block Association and the Midtown North Police Precinct Council, he became one of Clinton’s (then called Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side) leaders fighting for a safer and cleaner neighborhood.

Not as scraggy looking as the Occupy Wall Street crowd this group had serious issues as well. They had grown tired of a despondent police department unable to deal with the surge in muggings, drugs dealings, and prostitution that overwhelmed their neighborhood.

Sitting on the stage alongside Staulcup, the council’s board members and the precinct’s commanding officer I saw Hell’s Kitchen diversity first hand; merchants, parents, singles, elderly, minorities, gays, unemployed, white and blue collar workers, clergy, actors and reps from local schools and nonprofits. New York had not yet become the city of multi million dollar apartments and glass towers. Once a place of promise, many critics back then called it “America’s Murder Capital” an ungovernable city in financial and social turmoil on the brink of collapse. 

Staulcup’s reversible cape fitted him well in his dual roles as activist and miniature carousel maker.
Born in 1936 in Glassboro, New Jersey he loved theater and the arts and moved to New York to studying acting.
“When I stepped off the bus I was in awe of the city’s size and energy but after I took my second and third steps I knew this is where I had to be.”

He settled in Hell’s Kitchen in 1963 and got involved in neighborhood affairs ten years later out of desperation when his block’s (West 51st between 8 and 9th Avenues) quality of life disintegrated. A mini restaurant row with six well-known French eateries including Tout Va Bien (still open) and the long defunct Rene Pujol and CafĂ© des Sports the street drew theater-goers and business people. It also had a sordid side.

 “People were shooting up on our stoops and having sex in our vestibules. Dealers sold drugs out of ground floor apartments,” he said.

“Some nights I called and called the precinct. The phone rang forever. When someone finally answered I was often told ‘this is Times Square. We’re too busy. Call back later.’

“The police wanted to see blood in the streets and garbage kicked all over it before they did anything,” he said. “I learned you needed to be dramatic to get their attention.”

Ninth Avenue, the spine of Hell’s Kitchen, famous for its International Food Festival Ninth Avenue, even in those days, attracted thousands of visitors to its annual two-day event in May, but many also came here for other reasons. Office workers, suburban college kids and cars with out of town license plates flooded Hell’s Kitchen for drugs and hookers.

“Ninth Avenue was a drug haven. Pot, pills, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin were available day or night,” Staulcup said.

“We spent months, years fighting with the city to close a drug supermarket, then we battled to close an illegal social club. We contacted every city agency from the mayor’s office on down, not once, not twice, but many times.”

When one closed another appeared. Pimps opened a brothel in an apartment across the street from his place. Then transvestites moved in. Staulcup said, “It was an everything goes club." Drug, sex, fights, stabbings occurred almost nightly. It took 18 months to close.

The block association stretched from Eight to Eleventh Avenues. When a local gang sold drugs from a vacant building near Eleventh, cops told him the operation would only cease when the building was torn down. “Guess what!” Staulcup said. “The city demolished it. The dealers sold drugs in the empty lot.”

This sense of dramatics is a far cry from his creative world. As part owner and founder of Brilar Carousel Works, Staulcup labored through the night making carousels costing $500 to $5000.

He worked and lived on the first two floors of a brownstone at 337 on 51st. As you enter you walk into a small foyer that led to an ample sized palor with burgundy colored walls, plush floral carpeting and thick drapes. From there you pass under an ornate doorway with large sliding wooden doors to reach his workshop. Both rooms are decorated with turn-of-the century furniture, vintage black and white photographs, and large gold-framed mirrors lit with candles and kerosene lamps. All windows including the door to his backyard were outlined with antique molding and covered with curtains made from fabrics he retrieved from the old Met Opera house on 39th Street. Classical music played from his Victor-Victrola. Static from his ham radio, used to track police calls in Hell’s Kitchen, occasionally disrupted the room’s serenity.

Making miniature carousels required immense detail. They measured 15 inches in height with a base of 18 inches. These collectibles featured moving horses wrapped in colorful sashes, tiny hand-sculpted figurines about an inch or two in height, and monkeys holding balloons dressed in formal circus frocks wearing knee high-laced boots. Couples dressed in Gay Nineties fashions stand and listen to the carousel’s music. Young maidens in fluffy dresses wear floppy hats with flowers sit sidesaddle watched lovingly by their beaus.

Even with plump hands and thick fingers he had the manual dexterity and nimbleness of a Swiss watchmaker. It is hard to believe he created these delicate forms from eggshells, toothpicks, threads, tiny shreds of cloth and clay.

Staulcup made carousels for the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Marshall Field’s and for Rita Ford, his mentor. Ford once a fixture in antique and contemporary music boxes started here in 1947.

Staulcup’s passion for acting also included the theaters especially those on Forty-second Street. Originally built for theater and opera they were converted during the depression to meet the rising popularity of “talking films.” He knew the history of each building and the actors who performed there. The New Amsterdam, one of the city’s most magnificent theaters, was his favorite.

One Friday night in September 1978 after I pounded him with questions about the Amsterdam, Staulcup said, “We’re going to the movies. I’ll give you a tour of the New Amsterdam.”

That night TGIF, the hot disco flick of the summer, starring Donna Summer, Jeff Golblum, and Debra Winger played there. The film had already started when we arrived. We sat in the last row near the entrance. Within seconds no longer able to contain his enthusiasm he began his tour.

For years Forty-second street, the one-block strip between 7 and 8th Avenues, had a notorious reputation as the city’s most dangerous street. Its Wild West atmosphere attracted hustlers, murderers, pickpockets, rapists, pedophiles, junkies, dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and scam artists from all over the country.

Before we entered the theater police had raided a nearby porn shop. More than a dozen cops led a line of men in handcuffs that stretched from a prisoner transport bus parked at the curb right into the shop. Welcome to Saturday night on the “Deuce.”

Built in 1903 by noted architects Henry Herts and Hugh Tallants the New Amsterdam included an eleven-story office building and two playhouses, the 1700 plus seat two-balcony main stage and the nearly 700 seat roof-garden theater. Described as
an architectural gem by critics this grand art-noveau masterpiece not only possessed beauty but also the most advanced mechanical stage ever built.

Sitting with Staulcup I realized we did not come here for the movie. The building had top billing. Worn and ragged and decades past its glory days Staulcup unveiled its magnificence long hidden under layers and years of neglect. He raved about its perfect acoustics and unobstructed views, cantilevered boxes, elegant friezes, intricate plaster relief panels, huge stage with elevators capable of moving sections up and down 33 feet. He described the leather-upholstered banquettes in the clubroom, the richly designed lady’s boudoir, the illustrious paintings and the spectacular mural of Drama above the proscenium.

After about twenty minutes of his descriptive nonstop narrative he nudged me and said, “Come on.” He headed to the aisle at the far end of the theater where he turned and walked to the stage. When he reached the first row he made a right and continued to center stage and stopped.

I walked to the first row. I did not follow him. I knew better than to stand in front of a few hundred people watching TGIF in a theater on the “Deuce.” He turned to me and waved his white-gloved hand for me to join him. I shuffled forward and then froze. He waved again. “Oh man, I hope I survive,” I thought as I moved towards him.

Think of all the famous people who appeared on this stage,” he said when I reached him. His eyes widened and his hushed voice rose as he rattled off names: “Richard Mansfield, Marion Davies, W.C. Fields.”

After the third name I heard nothing. My mind blocked out everything he said. He continued rolling out names: “Fanny Brice, Basil Rathbone, Will Rodgers, Marilyn Miller, Fred and Adele Astaire, Bela Lugosi, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, Ziegfeld’s Follies.”

Although thrilled to stand facing this glorious and historical place I said to myself,  “This is crazy. We should return when no one is here.”

Back then the Deuce and this one-block strip had a higher crime rate than many city precincts.
Several years before I saw the movie Shaft at a nearby theater with a tough and hostile crowd. A fight broke out. My friend and I squeezed underneath our seats as bottles went airborne.

Oblivious to how I felt Staulcup continued.
In black cape and large wide brim Cyrano De Bergerac hat with a black satin band and white feather, angled to one side partially covering his face, he pointed his cane from one end of the theater to other. I think he described the lavish cantilevered boxes, the spectacular domed ceiling, and the theaters elliptical shape.

Finally something seeped through. I heard the words “Last Dance” from TGIF’s hit song on the same name sung by Donna Summer.

Last dance
Last dance for love
Yes, it's my last chance
For romance tonight

“Last Dance, Last Dance” bounced over and over in my mind except the words changed to “Last Chance to Live.”

I scanned the crowd intently waiting for a Malt liquor bottle, or a bullet to fly our way or for someone to rush the stage with a club or a knife. We stood there for 45 seconds, maybe 60, maybe longer. It felt like an eternity.

When Staulcup pointed his cane to his right hundreds of pairs of eyes followed. When he pointed left eyes again followed. When he swung his cane to the ceiling all heads bobbed up. But amazingly nothing happened that night.

A week later a shooting occurred outside the theater.
I had my first and last theater tour with Staulcup.
Staulcup left New York in the mid-nineties. He returned to Gloucester County. He died in 1996 at the age of 63.

Photos by Rudi Papiri; Carousel photo from Full House Antiques

Editor’s Note:
Keith Staulcup’s carousel photo is available for $3500 at the following link:

New Amsterdam: After years of decay the Disney Corporation with support from NYC and the 42nd Street Redevelopment Corporation spent $36 million to restore the New Amsterdam. Today it is once again the city’s most beautiful theater. The completely restored theater officially reopened with the concert King David in May 1997. The blockbuster play Lion King opened there in November of that year. It remained until 2006 when Mary Poppins took over the space.

West 51st: Now home to 12 restaurants, a boutique Hotel, the Washington Jefferson, and multi-million dollar brownstones. Tout Va Bien is the sole surviving French restaurant.
It is also home to a Single Room Occupancy hotel, St. Paul’s Chapel, a rescue mission and soup kitchen, and the Alexander Abraham Residence, a women’s shelter.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Library Way:
Reading and Walking Along NYPL's Street of Words

Walk of Fames exist all over the world.  There are walks in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Hungary, India, Russia, and the Philippines. Surfers have one in Huntington Beach, California. There is the International Civil Rights Walk in Atlanta, the Music City Walk in Nashville, and the U.S. Space Walk in Florida.
Nothing compares to Hollywood’s illustrious strip for pizzazz and stardom.

The Walk of Fame is located at one of the world’s most famous corners, Hollywood and Vine. The names of almost 2500 celebrities are inscribed in five-pointed brass and terrazzo stars. They are embedded in the sidewalks along a 15-block stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and on three blocks of Vine Street. Each star contains one name. Millions visit annually and pay homage to the entertainment industry’s (film, radio, music, television, theater) biggest stars - Charlie Chaplin, Sophie Loren, Clark Gable, Johnny Depp, Paul Robeson, Mickey Mouse, Michael Jackson to name a few.

Far less celebrated and on a much smaller scale than the movie capital’s version, is the New York Public Library's walk of fame, or Library Way, as it is called.

Library Way is located on the north and south sides of East 41 Street. It starts at Park Avenue’s Grand Central Viaduct near Pershing Square and extends east to Fifth Avenue, to the New York Public Library's flagship building.
The Library’s magnificent marble Beaux Arts building, completed in 1911, has an imposing massive staircase and grand entrance. Two large stone lions, Patience and Fortitude, watch over Fifth Avenue perched on pedestals on each side of the staircase. The library is the second largest research facility in the United States, after the Library of Congress.
Library Way has 96 bronze plaques honoring 45 of the world’s greatest novelists, playwrights, poets, philosophers, and artists. They hail from 11 countries and date back to 100 AD. Some names appear on two plaques. There are several Library Way informational panels.

Mark Twain

The Grand Central Partnership spearheaded plans for the project in the early 1990s. The city formed the Partnership, one of its business improvement districts, to revitalize various commercial neighborhoods. This one covers the neighborhood around Grand Central Terminal. The walk received support from the New York Public Library, the city's Department of Transportation, property owners and commercial tenants on 41st. The street got its first panel in 1998. The city officially dedicated Library Way in 2004.

The panels measure 2½ by 1½ feet. Each one contains an important quote and an image reflective of the text. Both are set in bas-relief. City librarians submitted quotes to a group of literary scholars, selected by the Partnership, the New York Public Library and The New Yorker magazine who in turn selected quotes for each one.

Sculptor Gregg LeFevre designed the panels. He created his first outdoor sculptor in 1974 and has completed projects all over the country. He did the New Jersey Hall of Fame in Newark, New York City’s Union Square Park Timeline, and works in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis.

On a weekday visit to Library Walk few people stopped to read the panels. The street’s heavy foot traffic and the frantic New York off-to-the-races pace makes it impossible for passers-by to even notice the panels.
On weekends the pace is less hectic. During a ninety-minute visit one late Saturday morning I saw a number of people read and photograph the panels.

Tall commercial buildings line 41st street. The street is often covered in heavy shadows or brilliant sunlight depending on the time of day and the weather. On that Saturday visit, a brilliant blue sky day, shadows darkened the south side. On the north side, a glaring light bounced off the bronze panels and made it almost impossible to read them.

The Library Hotel-northeast corner of 41st and Madison
The contrast of light and darkness often hides the splendid architectural character of the streets older handsome buildings designed in reverence to Grand Central terminal. This includes 295 Madison Avenue with its distinctive 47-story tower on the southeast corner of 41st, 12 East 41st, and the Library, a boutique hotel at 299 Madison. The street is also home to Berkeley College, the stylish Dylan Hotel, the upscale Benjamin Steakhouse, Madison and Vine, and O’Casey’s Pub.

Emily Dickinson

I stood before Emily Dickinson’s panel. Cleaned and polished and set in a blue grey stone. It looked brand new. “Wow,” I said to myself amazed by its mint condition considering how other panels had gum markings and smudges.
A maintenance man standing in front of the building where the Dickinson is located heard me.
“I polish it every week. I don’t like when they look like that,” he said in an accented voice pointing to a tarnished one in front of a renovation site.  “I don’t know this person” referring to Dickenson. “I like her words. I like all the words on the block. This is my library.”
This is a classic case of a library without walls and how the NYPL has extended its boundaries to the people on the street.

Photos: Rudi Papiri   *You can enlarge an image by clicking on it
Library Way located on East 41st Street from Park to Fifth Avenue. 
New York Public Library - Stephen A. Schwarzman Building 
at Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018; 917-275-6975. 
Hours: M-Th-Fri-Sat 10-6; Tues-Wed 10-8; Sun 1-5.

A follow-up article contains the complete list of all 45 names on Library Way. There are also brief notes about the lesser-known figures. I also included brief bios about my favorites writers, plus photos of several very attractive panels.

Monday, June 25, 2012

   NYPL's Library Way: A Sidewalk Reading Room 
  Sharing the Words of Julia Alvarez, Langston 
  Hughes, William Butler Yeats...

New York is a vertical city. If you walk with your head down or your eyes glued to your cell phone texting you will miss the New York experience of sleek skyscrapers, glass apartment towers, old historical buildings and the classic beauty of its prewar and turn-of-the century architecture.

Many of its most famous landmarks soar high above its streets. This is the city where King Kong swatted away planes as he clung to Fay Wray at the top of the Empire State Building and where Superman was able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

New York has more to offer than just its most famous building the Empire State Building. There is the Art Deco Chrysler Building, 1046 feet tall, adorned with eagle gargoyles and topped with a glittery steel spire. There is also the Gothic cathedral-style 57-story Woolworth building and Frank Gehry’s 90-story 8 Spruce Street, with its wrinkled steel finish, the tallest occupied residential tower in the country.

East 41st Street between Park and Fifth Avenues is different. In this two block stretch known as Library Way you must look down when you walk. If you fail to do so, you will skip over memorable literary quotes from the world’s great writers, poets, philosophers, scientists and statesmen.

Library Way, affiliated with the New York Public Library’s main building at 42nd and Fifth Avenue, contains 96 bronze panels featuring 45 renowned figures from literature, science and philosophy.

Samuel Beckett

While many are well known, there are several I knew very little or nothing about. But I enjoyed reading their quotes. Some were brilliant, funny and stimulating. The intricately designed panels captured Library Way’s unique intellectual aura. The two hours I spent on Library Way got me thinking and wondering who are these people. Why are they here? I agree with the maintenance man (see previous article) from a building on Library Way who said, “These people are important. They are here for a reason.” I agree.
I read up on all 45 names. I share with you what I learned.  I am also including a few of my favorites 
to this list.

Julia Alvarez - Dominican-American novelist/poet, born in New York City in 1950 and lived in the Dominican Republic until age 10 when her family left due to island’s military dictatorship. Noted works: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of Butterflies and A Wedding in Haiti.
George Braque - 1882-1963; Painter/sculptor from Le Harve, France. He pioneered Cubism with Picasso. Famous Paintings: The Mauve Tablecloth; The Gueridon.

Gwendolyn Brooks -1917-2000; Born in Topeka, Kansas poet, she was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks received it for poetry in 1950 for Annie Allen.  Also wrote: A Street in Bronzeville.
Albert Camus - 1913-1960; Writer, journalist and Existentialist philosopher was born in French Algeria and became the first African Nobel prize recipient. Won for Literature in 1957. Noted Works: The Stranger, The Plague and The Fall.

Isak Dinesen

Kate Chopin - 1850-1904; Short-story writer/novelist was born Katherine O’Flaherty in St. Louis. She wrote about women’s search for self-identity and independence. Famous work: The Awakening

Gu Cheng - 1956-1993, born Beijing. Poet, essayist, novelist. A member of China’s Misty Poets. Exiled after Tiananmen Square protests. He had a troubled life. He killed his wife and later committed suicide. Among his works: Sea of Dreams.
Lucille Clifton - 1936-2010; African-American poet, children’s author/educator from Buffalo, N.Y. who received the National Book Award for Poetry in 2000 for Blessing The Boats: New and Collected Poems 1988 - 2000.

Isak Dinesen - 1885-1962; Novelist/short storywriter was born Karen von Blixen-Finecke in Denmark. Noted works: Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast.
Richard Eberhart - 1904-2005; He was in born Minnesota. Received 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Selected Poems from 1930-65 and the 1977 National Book Award for Selected Poems 1930 -1977.

Bohumil Hrabal -1914-1997; He was born in Austro-Hungary. Along with Milan Kundera he was one of the most significant Czech writers. Wrote about human conflict. His work Closely Watered Train, was made into movie of the same name, won 1967 Oscar for Foreign Film.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes - 1902-1967; A Poet, playwright, journalist from Joplin MO who became an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. Famous works: The Way of White Folks, The Best of Simple and Let America Be America Again.
Garson Kanin - 1912-1999; Writer/director for film/theater born in Rochester N.Y. Wrote the play Born Yesterday and directed the Diary of Anne Frank and Funny Girl on Broadway.

Alfred Kazin - 1915-1998;  Born Brooklyn, NY. He  became part of New York Intellectual movement. A writer and literary critic he wrote about the Jewish immigrant experience. Famous works: On Native Grounds and A Walker in the City.

Jerome Lawrence - 1915-2004 born Jerome Schwartz in Cleveland, Ohio;
Robert Edwin Lee - 1918-1994, born Elyria, Ohio. Playwrights who collaborated to write Inherit The Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and Auntie Mame and later adapted it to become the 1956 Tony winning musical Mame.

Jose Marti

Jose Marti - 1853-1895;  Cuban national and literary hero born in Havanna. A poet, essayist, 
journalist became a leader of Cuba’s independence from Spain. Exiled by Spain. Famous 
work: Free Verses.

Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore - 1889-1972; Born Kirkwood, MO and wrote Poetry. Awarded the National Book Award in 1952 for Collected Poems.
Richard Pinsky - born 1940 in Long Branch, N.J. he was a Pulitzer Prize Poet nominee in1996; awarded the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and the World. Wrote the libretto for the opera Death and the Powers.

Muriel Rukeyser - 1913-1980; A poet, political activist was born in New York City. She wrote about race, class and social injustice. The Book of the Dead and The Life of Poetry.
John Ruskin - 1819-1900; A writer, art critic, philanthropist was born in London. Wrote essays, treatises, letters, poetry and travel guides. Works: Modern Painters (5 vols) and The Seven Lamps of Architecture.

Tom Stoppard - born 1937 in Czechoslovakia; His family moved to England after WWII. A playwright who was knighted in 1997 he received Tony Awards for best plays: 1968 - Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; 1984 - The Real Thing; 2007 - The Coast of Utopia.
William Styron -1925-2006 ; Novelist and essayist who was born in Newport News, Virginia. He received the 1960 Pulitzer in Literature for The Confessions of Nat Turner & the National Book Award in 1980 Sophie’s Choice.

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas - 1914-1953; He was born in Swansea, South Wales. A poet-writer popularized poetry in America with flamboyant and dramatic reading tours. Noted Works: 18 Poems, & Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, and Entrances. Lived at the Chelsea Hotel and drank at the White Horse Tavern in the West Village. Died nearby at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
E.B. White – 1899-1985; He was born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. and wrote for The New Yorker. He was a co-author The Elements of Style and wrote the children’s book Charlotte’s Webb. Received an honorary Pulitzer in 1978.

William Carlos Williams - 1883-1963; Poet and pediatrician was born in Rutherford N.J..
He received the National Book Award for Poetry in 1949; posthumously received the Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for Pictures from Brueghel & Other Poems. Other noted works:  Spring and AllThe Red Wheelbarrow, and Patterson. 

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus                                Julia Alvarez      
Francis Bacon                Samuel Beckett            Jose Luis Borges         
George Braque              Gwendoyln Brooks      Albert Camus            
Lewis Carroll                 Willa Cather                 Kate Chopin              
Gu Cheng                       Lucille Clifton              Rene Descartes           
Emily Dickinson            Isak Dinesen                 Richard Eberhart        
Ernest Hemingway        Bohumil Hrabai            Langston Hughes        
Thomas Jefferson           Garson Kanin               Alfred Kazin               
Jerome Lawrence           Robert Edwin Lee        Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Jose Marti                       John Milton                  Marianne Moore
Richard Pinsky               Pablo Picasso               Muriel Rukeyser
John Ruskin                   Gertrude Stein              Wallace Stevens
Tom Stoppard                William Styron             Dylan Thomas
Henry David Thoreau    Mark Twain                  E.B. White
William Carlos Williams                                      John Greenlead Whittier
Virginia Woolf                                                     William Butler Yeats
Photos by Rudi Papiri  *You may enlarge an image by clicking on it