You may not know the name of Italian-born sculptor Costantino Nivola off the top of your head, but New York City is home to the largest collection of his sculptures in the world. Nivola created 21 pieces across all five boroughs, often in public buildings like schools and police stations, of which 17 still exist in places like William E. Grady High School on Coney Island and Beach Channel High School in Queens. Nivola is currently the subject of an exhibition at The Cooper Union‘s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, Nivola in New York I Figure in Field

Courtesy of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive, The Cooper Union. Lea Bertucci, Photographer.

The exhibition focuses on four of his New York City works: Nivola’s first New York City commission — a 76-foot long wall relief in the Olivetti showroom, the “Apple store of its time,” a 1953 sandcast basrelief cartouche on the south façade of Coney Island’s William E. Grady High School, a collection of sculptures and bas relief works in the Stephen Wise Recreation Area on the Upper West Side, and bronze statuettes and plaques on the 19th Precinct Combined Police and Fire Facilities on the Upper East Side.

Courtesy of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive, The Cooper Union. Lea Bertucci, Photographer.

Nivola occupies a largely unexamined but important place in the post-war modern movement, and his artwork communicates to a broad audience using a symbolic language he created with materials and methods often shared by the buildings he embellished. For his pieces that adorned architecture, Nivola worked mostly in concrete and explored a wide range of techniques including cast and sculpted concrete, frescoes, bas-reliefs and scrafitto. He placed free-standing sculptures in and around buildings, affixed cast panels to facades and inscribed wet concrete with designs on-site.

Photo courtesy the Nivola family archive

Discover these works on a guided walking tour of Nivola’s New York City works led by Roger Broome and Steven Hillyer, the curators of Nivola in New York I Figure in Field. Roger Broome is a Brooklyn-based architect and alumnus of The Cooper Union’s The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and Steven Hillyer is Director, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive at The Cooper Union.

Costantino Nivola was a unique figure who bridged art and architecture by creating site-specific artwork for buildings, most of them publicly accessible and many in collaboration with prominent architects. This special tour will include visits to several sites in Manhattan. This event is being held in conjunction with an exhibition of Nivola’s works at The Cooper Union’s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, Nivola in New York I Figure in Field. The exhibit closes on March 15. Registration for the tour opens at noon today:

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