Block Magazine

Neighborhood Artist Chosen for Brooklyn Statue







Williamsburg-based artist Brian Tolle, best known for his Irish Famine Memorial in Battery Park City, has been commissioned to design a new statue at the base of the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn.

Tolle was chosen from over 40 artists to create a permanent installation on the median of Flatbush Ave. between Tillary Street and Johnson Place where Manhattan Bridge traffic flows into Brooklyn. The sculpture will be a translucent piece based on the original sculptures that once sat at both ends of the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge, designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French, best known for the seated Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

French’s original sculptures are of two female figures, one representing Brooklyn and the other Manhattan. They both have symbolic features at their feet, including a young boy reading, a church, and a lyre. The original statues now stand at the entrance of the Brooklyn Museum.

Tolle’s sculpture will consist of a translucent cast of the figures that will be mounted on the ends of two arms, which are on the end of a pole, and will rotate and light up at night. The sculpture is part of the city’s plan to form a grand entrance into Brooklyn along the Flatbush Corridor.

Tolle, who was born in Queens in 1964 and now lives in Williamsburg, attended Parson’s School of Design, the State University of New York at Albany, and received his MFA at Yale University School of Art.

He is now a professor at Parsons. Tolle has an acute interest in American history and does extensive historical research for his installations, using it as a way to understand the present in his site-specific works. For Tolle’s installation on the Irish Famine, he created a hillside field with a roofless Irish cottage, reminiscent of the landscape of Ireland during the famine.