Rosenthal, Bernard (Tony)
Sculpture Sketch, 1960
The arc of Tony Rosenthal’s career virtually constitutes a history of modern sculpture. Working initially in Chicago, he carved Art Deco adornments for building exteriors. While stationed in Great Britain during World War II, he discovered the works of Henry Moore. After war’s end, Rosenthal worked in an increasingly abstract style. He spent much of the 1950s creating public sculpture in Los Angeles. Back in New York, in 1969, Rosenthal was one of five sculptors invited to submit models for a relief to adorn NYU’s new Loeb Student Center. Rosenthal produced this brass sketch, which did not win the commission. Its composition of uneven, abstract rectangular strips with alternating ridges and cavities suggests a link to the elaborate wood-carved altarpieces of the Northern Renaissance, with their rows of deeply undercut figures. By this time, Rosenthal was also making streamlined cubes, columns, and cylinders with hard-edged trenches and craters cut into their surfaces. The best-known of these is Alamo of 1967, the fifteen-foot-high black cube mounted on a traffic island in Astor Place, near NYU. Rosenthal’s cubes suggest a science-fiction future of brutal immensity, relieved by scars and crevices offering footholds for human habitation. Indeed, Alamo evidently inspired the terrifying Borg Cubes in the Star Trek television series.