July 15th, 2013, 5:28 pm
The Promethean figure of Rocket Thrower by the sculptor Donald De Lue, a vestige of the 1964 New York’s World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, is undergoing long-awaited conservation this summer through the MAS’s Adopt-A-Monument program. Initiated by the MAS 26 years ago, with its partners at the NYC Parks Department and the NYC Public Design Commission, the program included this noteworthy statue among the original twenty works of public sculpture needing funds for conservation. Now, the embodiment of the 1960s “Man’s Entry into Space,” is the last of 38 monuments to be ‘adopted’ and restored. On site treatment began in June with conservator Steve Tatti, head of SAT Inc., and his crew. Under the punishing sun, standing on two lifts that reach 43’, the height of Rocket Thrower, they are cleaning the statue and working with the existing verdigris patina, toning- in and harmonizing the streaked and distorted surface with a combination of mechanical and limited chemical repatination. All the patina work is done in conjunction with the hot wax treatment to harmonize the whole. Tatti and crew heat up the cleaned bronze to about 175 degrees with a propane torch and apply a petroleum-based wax mixture which is absorbed by the bronze. This wax must have a consistent layer so as to reveal the sculptor’s original design and intent. After the sculpture cools, Tatti and staff return to buff it with soft cloths. The stars encircling the rocket contrail and tip (and also decorating the base) will be returned to their original gilded conception. The photo here shows the stars primed, coated with zinc chromate primer, in preparation for the application of the size and gold leaf. The Rocket Thrower has attracted one of several large hawks that make their home in the park. This particular grand bird proudly perches on the tip of the rocket flame as if overseeing the skilled artisans in what appears to be his approval. We all share equal awe of De Lue’s heroic Space Age figure, both the history it embodies and the tour de force of its artistic accomplishment. We are always grateful to our partners in the Parks Department Arts & Antiquities and the NYC Public Design Commission. We are also deeply appreciative for the generosity of donors who made the Rocket Thrower conservation project possible, including the George Trescher Fund, the New York Community Trust, Mr. and Mrs. Marvin C. Schwartz, Joseph Smagacz, and other individuals who contributed these past decades.