Give Us Art, Not Initials

October 18, 2017

To the Editor:

 

 Someone needs to hold up a giant “stop” sign in front of RIOC and Hudson Companies to prevent our Island from being blighted with their monstrous “RI” sign. 

 

It may be “lovely” (in the words of Hudson Company’s Principal David Kramer) to have a welcoming device for the Island. And it may also be “fun and fanciful” (in the words of RIOC President Susan Rosenthal). But I would strongly caution Hudson and RIOC that developing signage and designing public works of art are two distinct disciplines, and they should be treated as such. 

 

Yes, we need more signage to help orient visitors and direct them to attractions and businesses. But if RIOC and Hudson also believe it is important to have some sort of iconic monument, they should not develop and erect one in a slapdash manner. Monuments like these become inseparably associated with their locations, so this monument may ultimately become the defining symbol of Roosevelt Island. It should not be lightly considered. 

 

Before dropping a giant structure randomly somewhere on the Island, Hudson and RIOC should first commission a study, survey residents and visitors, and assemble focus groups. They should be asking what the Island means to residents; what do we think distinguishes us from other communities; what do visitors think distinguishes us; and what do we value as a community. RIOC and Hudson should use the answers to those questions to inform and direct their efforts. 

 

The “RI” sign may be reminiscent of (or blatantly derivative of) Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture and Deborah Kass’s OY/YO sculpture, but Roosevelt Island is not Sixth Avenue and 55th Street. We are not Williamsburg. We are something different and unique. And we deserve real public artwork that honors and celebrates Roosevelt Island and its people, not an unimaginative, unoriginal billboard cluttering our green space and obstructing our Island’s many authentic attractions. 

 

Robert Ostergaard

 

Photo by Janet Falk

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