Robert Raphael

Untitled Folly

Raphael’s work at Randall’s Island Park will investigate the category of the ornamental and decorative, and the idea of an architectural “folly” in contrast to functional structures – expressing a juxtaposition found in the contrast of the Park’s lush green areas and meandering paths with the stanchions and steel of the massive RFK Triborough Bridge and the Island’s institutional, utilitarian buildings. Specifically, inspired by the Island’s early use for farming by Dutch settlers, Raphael’s folly will be based on the form of a split rail fence, typically used for agriculture, in romantic and nostalgic homage to the Island’s past and to the beginning of its ongoing and complex historical transformations. Untitled Folly will comprise ceramic posts fabricated from porcelain, a material which is both decorative and surprisingly strong. These posts will be ornamented with carved patterns relating to the forms on the nearby massive RFK Triborough Bridge, yet incorporating bright flowing glazes as an accent and contrast. Fence rails fabricated out of lumber will be set at varying heights which will encourage the visitor to rest on the fence while standing. The structures will exist in the realm of true architectural folly, providing beauty, pleasure and ornament in contrast to the more industrial landscapes of Randall’s Island Park.

It is with great regret that we must report that sometime during the night of Monday, June 9 vandals destroyed Robert Raphael’s Untitled Folly. The damage was complete and irreparable. Police are investigating the crime but no arrests have been made to date. The photographs on this website will remain as a lasting testament to the fine artistic vision, great skill and enormous commitment Rob brought to this work.

The Blog

The Completed Work

Final Assembly

With the help of Scott Chasse from Calico we were able to fasten all of the ceramic elements of the sculpture to the wood 4x4s.  It was a long three days from delivery of the ceramics to completion.  

Digging Day

With the help of the Amazing Debbie Unger from RIPA, Scott Chasse and myself were able to install 6 4x4 posts that will act as the structural support for the ceramic posts.  Debbie's auger made quick work of the very rocky soil on Randall's Island.  Once the holes were dug Scott and I were able to set the wood posts into concrete for support.  

Siting the Sculpture

With the help of Scott Chasse from Calico in Greenpoint. I was able to configure the sculpture on my site directly under the Triborough Bridge.  The stakes mark where we will drill for the fence posts which will support the sculpture. 

Glaze Firing

The second firing is the glaze firing. In order to determine the color palette for the sculpture it was necessary to do some glaze testing.  In this stage small amounts of glazes are fired on test tiles to determine the correct color and formula.  Once I determined the final glazes I was able to begin glazing the posts. Again it was necessary to seek out larger kilns for the glaze firings.  I would like to thank Judy Devitt at the Wortendyke Studio in Midland Park, NJ for allowing me to use her kilns to fire all 17 firings necessary to complete the project. 



The Artist

Robert Raphael(b. 1978, Hackensack, New Jersey)

Rob Raphael’s work draws from the complex history of decorative art, a tradition that both runs parallel to and is intertwined with the history of fine art. Raphael uses the feminine association with craft processes and the material of porcelain as a subtly powerful signifier of gender. In his work, perceptions of masculine and feminine are employed to investigate structure and ornament, denied function, and sexual difference. The resulting dichotomous relationships manifest in ceramic columns and other architectural forms that refer to strength, structure, and mass while they drip with intricate ornament and lush, delicate surfaces. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design (BFA, 2000) and the Cranbrook Academy of Art (MFA, 2004).

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