The Alamo 1967
The “Astor Place Cube”
Tony Rosenthal's Alamo, 1967, the monumental 15' Cor-Ten steel sculpture, also known as the Astor Place Cube, is without dispute Rosenthal's best-known and beloved public art sculpture, considered a New York and public art landmark, was first installed as part of Doris C. Freedman's Sculpture in Environment installation, sponsored by New York's administration of recreation & cultural affairs.
Not only was Rosenthal's Alamo, 1967 the first contemporary sculpture purchased by New York City, it was the first Rosenthal public art sculpture not commissioned by an architect. Donald Lippincott, the owner of Lippincott Foundry, contacted Rosenthal after he saw Ahab, 1966, a 10' geometric brass sculpture Rosenthal hand-cut with a band saw, created for the Whitney Museum, Annual Exhibition, 1966. Unlike most sculptors of metal who used fabricators for larger sculptures, Rosenthal had up until that point exclusively created all metal sculptures himself, even larger works of 20' and 30'. Fortuitously Lippincott asked Rosenthal if he wanted to enlarge the scale of his sculpture beyond what he could accomplish in his studio.
In 1965, Rosenthal began creating small five-inch cubes in balsa wood. After creating wood cubes, Rosenthal began creating cubes in bronze, eventually creating five-foot cubes. Although Rosenthal was exceptionally adept at hand-cutting and welding brass, it still took four months to achieve the desired solid appearance. Fabrication was more efficient; although Rosenthal had to give up control, a 15' cube was fabricated at Lippincott in three months.
In a 1968 interview, Rosenthal reflects on the installation of Alamo, 1967, observing: "the fact that it moves allows people to participate. And even the fact that people climb on it; it's all me. It all shows participation of the people in a way that it doesn't matter whether they know about it or not; they enjoy it...Anybody can walk over and push the cube and it will turn. If it had been monumental in scale, while it might have looked better in general for the surrounding area, at the same time it would have lost that human scale. And this I think is important too. And in this case I'm delighted. Because people feel friendly. It's a friendly object."
Aside from a few absences during 2005, 2014-2016, and 2023 for conservation and adding space for a pedestrian plaza, Tony Rosenthal’s Alamo, 1967 has been a spinning imagination favorite for over five decades.