The Public Eye
By Linda Angrilli
Eye of Fashion returned to its longtime home outside the Goodman Center, on the southwest corner of 27th and Seventh, on September 22. The 18-by-10-foot bronze sculpture, created by Robert Cronbach in 1976, had spent a year and a half at an art restoration facility in the Bronx, getting a much-needed facelift.
The interior steel armature had rusted and showed serious deterioration, and the surface, once a shiny gold, was dark, dull, and dirty; weather, pollution, and age had taken a toll. After repair and cleaning, a protective patina was applied to the surface. The patina is a gleaming, warm brown that simulates the look of natural oxidation, so Eye of Fashion looks both refreshed and integral to the site. The restoration was undertaken by Wilson Conservation, LLC, one of New York City’s most respected conservation firms. The company, co-owned by Jackie Blumenthal Wilson, Restoration ’93, has conserved and restored outdoor sculptures at Herald Square, Madison Square Park, Princeton University, and the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Cronbach (1908–2001), like many artists of his generation, was hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create public art. He was a political activist whose work dealt with the working class, art as a social force, and the relationship between art and landscape. Known primarily for public art, including at the Social Security Building in Washington, D.C., and the University of Minnesota Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Cronbach also completed sculpture commissions for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, as well as the U.N. General Assembly Meditation Room in New York. Also back on campus is an untitled work by Ami Shamir (1932–2007), an Israeli-American sculptor and stained-glass artist. Most of Shamir’s work is associated with Jewish themes, and linked to synagogues and Holocaust memorials. The 12-foot-tall abstract piece at FIT dates from the 1970s, and is typical of the public art movement of the time. It appears to represent a figure group with garment industry–related tools. After restoration by Wilson Conservation, the work now stands in front of the Dubinsky Student Center’s Style Shop. Students have been spotted sitting on its base, showing it’s already integrated into the life of the institution, as public art should be.