Volume 75, Number 38 | February 8 -14 2006

Photo by Don MacPherson

Parks workers re-installing Bob Bolles’s “cactus.”

Heavy metal encore for Bolles

Soho public art lovers fought for six years to bring Bob Bolles’s 10 metal sculptures back to the intersection of Broome, Watts and Thompson Sts. In November, their wishes were, at least partly, granted, when Parks Department workers re-installed three of the rusted creations.

The pieces include a cactus sculpture in the middle of what is now, according to Parks, called Sunflower Park, while two other sculptures — one resembling a large anchor, the other a bookend with filigreed cutouts — were plopped down at the two corners of the triangular park’s western side. When the park was created, the metalwork was summarily carted off to a shed on Randall’s Island, much to Soho residents’ chagrin.

Don MacPherson, with the help of attorney Larry Goldberg, both Community Board 2 members, put pressure on Parks to honor a C.B. 2 Parks Committee resolution that stipulated the sculptures’ return. MacPherson said the negotiations were “endless. The stumbling block was insurance,” he added, saying he thinks Parks has worked that out.

Bolles was a Gypsy and sculptor whose medium was iron and whose chisel was a blowtorch. Back in the 1960s when he plopped down his sculptures Soho had cobblestone streets, a few stores and luncheonettes and paper warehouses. “A lot of it was what is called guerilla art, because there was never any approval for it to be here,” MacPherson said of the iron pieces.

He said the next goal is to bring back two more of the sculptures and to rightfully rename the park Bob Bolles Park.

When the debate over whether to remove Bolles’s creations flared in 2000, some disparaged them as little more than trash magnets.

But MacPherson said, “Even if it is junk, it’s our junk. It’s really a historic part of Soho.”

A Parks Department spokesperson said, “With regards to Sunflower Park, the sculptures were first placed in this location without permission from the Parks Department. However, we agreed with the community to rotate them throughout the year on a regular basis.”

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