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Do You Remember?

"Puerto Rican Sun Sculpture by Ferrer"

(Reprinted from the Bronx Times Reporter of 12-16-2010)


I took a leisurely stroll through Fox Playground on Friday, December 3rd with Nick DiBrino and Tom Casey looking at an array of palm trees. None were real and when we got to Rafael Ferrer’s Puerto Rican Sun Sculpture at the southeast corner of East 156th and Fox Streets, the sun was bright but at 9:30 AM the temperature was still hovering around 35 degrees. You could feel the cold hardness of the thick steel and it sent a chill throughout your body. It was a sharp contrast to the subject matter which portrayed two palm trees arched toward each other at the top where an image of the sun filled the void between the tree tops. I had passed the .94 acre park any number of times but on this visit I took the time to walk slowly around and examine the 25’ tall sculpture up close. The touch of the cold steel contrasted sharply with the warmth depicted by the scene.

The six-ton sculpture was created by Rafael Ferrer expressly for this playground at a commissioned price of $25,000 and it was dedicated on October 16, 1979. It was fabricated from Cor-Ten steel, sometimes called weathered steel because of its rust color.

Nick DiBrino and Tom Casey pose beneath Rafael Ferrer's "Sun Sculpture."

It is not supposed to actually rust but this work of art did suffer from a combination of a little graffiti and the elements primarily with the paint chipping and it had to be completely restored with the artist’s advisory assistance in 2003. It seemed to be holding up quite well on my visit.

The artist himself is a fascinating study as his first career was as a jazz drummer. He was born in 1933 and lived with his half-brother, Jose Ferrer and his wife Rosemary Clooney in Hollywood while in college so did have access to some rather influential people. He would later study abroad but would always be influenced by his birthplace in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He taught at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan for a couple of years, lectured widely on art throughout the nation and was the recipient of numerous awards. His sun sculpture in Fox Playground was his first large size commission in the United States and locals are pleased that he chose the Bronx as the venue for that important work.

The site of the sculpture was created as a playground in 1979 but was not named until 1987 when it was given the name Fox Playground. It was named for William Fox, a large landowner of the area who was also related to the Leggett and Tiffany families through marriage. William Fox, by the way, is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery here in the Bronx and all three families, Fox, Leggett, and Tiffany, have local streets named for them.

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