Harlem Hybrid was dedicated in 1976, and is a site-specific assemblage sculpture made of polished and welded industrial bronze by Richard Hunt (born 1935), one of the foremost African-American sculptors in the United States.
Based in Chicago, Hunt is known for his large-scale abstract works. Harlem Hybrid rises like a rock outcropping from its landscaped setting on busy west 125th Street. In 1998, Hunt described his working method as "an overarching impulse to accomplish a synthesis of organic and industrial subject matter, hybridizing and layering it with a certain amount of ambiguity to open it up and make it thought-provoking."
Harlem Hybrid is one of many "hybrid" pieces by the artist combining references to natural, industrial and architectural elements. Others include Active Hybrid (1983) in Peoria, Illinois; Europa Hybrid (1977) at the Nassau County Museum of Art; Hybrid Construction (1983) at Ohio's Miami University; Palmate Hybrid (1970) at the Indianapolis Museum of Art; Tower Hybrid (1975) in St. Louis, Missouri; and Fox Box Hybrid (1979) in his native Chicago.
Hunt is responsible for more than 80 public sculptures and has had numerous solo exhibitions, including retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art and Studio Museum of Harlem, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1972, not long after showing at MoMA, Hunt was commissioned to make Harlem Hybrid by art patron Peter Putnam, who also sponsored George Segal's Gay Liberation Monument in Greenwich Village's Christopher Park.
Roosevelt Square was at the time a small unadorned plaza, and Hunt sought to reference its urban context, taking inspiration for instance from a church directly north of the square. This creative process produced a robust abstract work that made use of the triangular space in its configuration. Four preparatory models of variations for the project are now in the collection of the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, and similar works by Hunt may be found at the University of Illinois and Memphis.
In 2008, Parks' Citywide Monuments Conservation Program, a public-private partnership, conserved the sculpture, and the triangle was landscaped with low-lying junipers and a gravel border to improve visibility of the artwork, and permit it to be seen from all vantage points. In April 2009 Richard Hunt was honored by the International Sculpture Center with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Harlem Hybrid Details
- Location: West 125th Street and Morningside Avenue
- Sculptor: Richard Howard Hunt
- Description: Irregular assemblage of plates of different shapes and thicknesses
- Materials: Bronze (welded)
- Dimensions: H: 10'6" W: 12'7" L: 27'; Weight:: 5,500 lbs.
- Cast: Oct. 12/13, 1976
- Dedicated: October 26, 1976
- Donor: Peter Putnam/ Mildred Andrews Fund
- Inscription: welded on sculpture: "HARLEM HYBRID / R. HUNT 1976 / P.S. H.H. B.M." (N.b. Initials are those of Richard Hunt's assistants.)