Brooklyn Daily Eagle
October 9th, 2008


Contemporary Replicas of Early Downtown Brooklyn Sculptures To Be Restored to Flatbush and Tillary
Brooklyn Artist Brian Tolle Best Known for Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN - Brooklyn artist Brian Tolle is in the process of designing a contemporary version of some old sculptures that used to adorn the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn side.

The city’s Design Commission at its meeting last month, approved the “Installation of artwork by Brian Tolle” at Flatbush Avenue Extension and Tillary Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

A native New Yorker who works in Brooklyn, Tolle is designing contemporary replicas of the original sculptures that were removed in 1961.

“In 1961, Robert Moses ordered the demolition of the Brooklyn entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. As a result, two allegorical sculptures created by Daniel Chester French representing Brooklyn and Manhattan were relocated to the Brooklyn Museum,” Tolle wrote in his presentation.

Tolle’s sculptures, which will be 10 feet tall and seven feet in diameter, will be perched 24 feet above the roadway at their original height. While the original figures were carved from granite, the reincarnated sculptures will be cast in translucent ice blue fiberglass resin with a matte surface, he said.

The statues will be lit from within creating a ghostly appearance at night, according to Tolle, who is not ready to reveal his sketches to the public yet.

Unlike the static presentation of the original sculptures the new work sets the figures in motion, orbiting and rotating around each other in a perpetual dance.

By restoring art to the bridge’s approach, this project addresses the original loss and the cultural climate that allowed it.

“In 1961, art on the Brooklyn side of the bridge was seen as an obstacle in the way of progress,” Tolle said. “Today urban designers are providing new and innovative places thus re-establishing the power of art in our city’s public spaces.”

According to Tolle’s biography, architecture, site and technology are recurring themes in his sculptures and installations. Using a variety of media, his work draws from the scale and experience of its surroundings, provoking a re-reading by cross-wiring reality and fiction.

Best known locally for the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, he is the recipient of the Design Commission’s Award for Excellence in Design and has received awards from the Irish American Historical Society and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation.

For more than a decade, Tolle’s work has been exhibited all over the world. He has a BFA from Parsons the New School for Design and an MFA from Yale.

The sculpture will be one element of streetspace work planned by the city, according to a spokesperson at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

“It will include a planted median, granite curbs, concrete sidewalks, new pedestrian-scale lighting, grade level plantings, seating and bike racks,” he said, adding that construction is expected to begin in late spring 2009, with completion estimated in 2011.