CLIFF SCULPTURES

 


 

“During a period when nature is being raped and polluted, when out cybernetic buildings make us forget its existence, how admirable it is that one sculptor was moved, and had the skill, ruggedness and determination, to recreate a huge fragment of nature’s randomness and structure and present it before us for meditation and rejuvenation. Such audacity, one feels, would have delighted the souls of William Cullen Bryant and Thomas Cole.”

—William Seitz, Curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions
at the Museum of Modern Art, New York 1960-1970

In 1965, the Research Foundation of State University of New York announced large grants to fund Distinguished Research. Bromberg, Full Professor of Painting at SUNY, New Paltz, submitted a proposal and in 1966 was awarded one of four grants given out that year. The grant allowed Bromberg to pursue his innovative idea of casting cliffs as part of the continuity of art’s relationship to nature. Originally, a 15 feet piece was to be created in cement and plaster. In researching his design, Bromberg went to Mexico where many pre-stressed concrete buildings were developed; he also visited Cementon, NY – a center for cement. However, the problem of weight became a huge consideration. A solution fell into place when Bromberg met Randolph Madlen, owner of a small company that made plastics. Madlen had invented a spray gun to work with the lightweight material, which he quickly adapted to handle Bromberg’s purpose. Despite its non-natural connotation, the use of plastic along with a thin backing of fiberglass was the major turning point for Bromberg in replicating nature and creating a monolithic work of art. Bromberg’s search for an interesting cliff face took him throughout the Hudson Valley. He spoke to road crews, hunters, and chased down all leads. Finally, driving along 23A toward Catskill, he found his site and with the owner’s permission began work replicating a 45-foot high cliff. The year was 1967. The result is a work of heroic scale. The cliff sculptures debuted in 1968, the first cliff measuring 22 feet high. Others followed in varying sizes, equally impressive. Each of Bromberg’s cliffs stands on its own merit as an imposing sculpture of beauty and ruggedness. Ivan Karp, owner of SoHo’s O.K. Harris Gallery and dealer for Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg, championed Bromberg’s cliffs as “works of genius.”

 



     
In honor of his solo exhibition, Cliff Sculptures by Manuel Bromberg, Brian Hollander of the Woodstock Times did an extensive interview with the artist for the article, At 98, Manuel Bromberg won’t give an inch. April 30, 2015. Photo by Dion Ogust.
 
In May of 2016, SUNY New Paltz and its President, Donald P. Christian rededicated Manny Bromberg’s innovative 22’ outdoor sculpture, Cliffside, which had first been dedicated in 1970 in honor of the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Ahead of his time in contemplating the role that art might play in resisting the degradation of the natural environment, Bromberg wanted to create sculptures that looked like rock outcroppings but would not be too heavy to transport or mount. So the sculpture that thousands of SUNY students pass by each day on the south-facing façade of the Humanities Building is a truly significant work, representing the first step in a novel artistic direction that pioneered new materials and techniques.” Frances Marion Platt, New Paltz Times.

 

   


“Birds have built nests, as have wasps, on the cliffs. Lichen grows on it. Snow and rain fall on its surface and run off. The color deepens or fades with sunlight. All in all, each cliff stands as a landscape in its own right.”

—Manuel Bromberg

 


 

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