By Rich Bockmann
About four decades after it was installed in an unassuming little park on Hillside Avenue, a unique example of abstract sculpture in Jamaica was restored to its original condition last week.
A team of restorationists with the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program, a division of the city Parks Department, spent last Thursday restoring Wingdale, a 12-foot-tall steel piece of contemporary art created by Roger Bolomey in 1971.
The piece was originally commissioned by the Association for a Better New York, and after it was exhibited across from Lincoln Center, it was permanently installed at the northwest end of Major John Mark Park on the corner of Hillside Avenue and 173rd Street in 1973.
The sculpture was designed to stand on its own steel base, but when it was installed the bottom was enclosed in an aluminum base that came up about a foot high, and when workers opened it last week they were surprised to find it weighted down with sandbags.
“It was a very uncommon way of securing a sculpture that weighs almost a ton,” said project conservator Christine Djuric.
The piece was originally designed to be displayed on its own base, Djuric said, so that it reflected Bolomey’s aesthetic of thin sheets of steel intertwined with one another as they ascend.
A few months ago, workers poured a concrete base and, with equipment on loan from the Queens Forestry Service, they moved the sculpture to its new permanent home last week.
“We’re excited because exposing the integral base of the piece is how his work was intended to be interpreted,” Djuric said.
Workers then stripped off several layers of paint in preparation to repaint it its original color, a deep red.
The Conservation Program fills in the gaps where Parks cannot, maintaining sculptures all over the city and, when needed, performing major renovations.
In fact, the program recently touched up the bronze Civil War statue in the middle of the park.
“You have this one sculpture from the 1890s and this piece of contemporary art in this one little park in Jamaica within 50 feet of each other,” said Arts & Antiquities Director Jonathan Kuhn. “It’s sort of intriguing, but that gives you an idea of the range of work we do.”
Each summer, the program’s staff and its interns restore public art in the five boroughs with the help of private sponsors. The Association for a Better New York provided the $15,000 for the Wingdale restoration, Kuhn said.
“We’ve been able to increase our stewardship of outdoor monuments so that small problems don’t become big ones,” he added. “In the case of Wingdale, we’ve moved away from emergency response to maintenance and preservation mode.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.