Popular Science: Grotescology

"Grotesque Figures Carved on Modern Skyscrapers," Popular Science Monthly, October 1933, pp. 20-21 (Modernmechanix).

Framed text. A BOY with a bean shooter, a lone fisherman, rats climbing up hawsers are among the strange objects that be found upon modern skyscrapers or apartment houses. Thousands of people have passed through the buildings thus adorned without ever having seen these figures, or if seen there was no recognition of their purpose. Sometimes the architect has played a joke upon the unsuspecting owner, installing a queer figure in so inaccessible a place that only a person with a telescope could examine it. In other cases, the figures have a real, if unconventional, symbolism and are, in a way, the modern equivalents of the gargoyles and statues of medieval architecture.
A whimsical architect is said to be responsible for a group of figures in the ceiling of the main entrance to a fashionable church in Fifth Avenue, New York. These are placed high enough to be all but invisible. They are believed to depict the types of people that the architect expected to attend the church; among those represented are the comic-paper symbols for the banker, the merchant, the professional man, the idle millionaire, and even the waster with his monocle! One expensive apartment house, with an ultra-modern scheme of decoration, presents a series of panels carved to satirize the landlord, the automobile mechanic, the stenographer, and the modern girl, the iceman, and the comedy figure of a janitor.
Photographs on these pages show what unusual sculpture our cameraman found on a tour of New York City’s newest and most famous buildings.

Captions p. 20. This iceman, right, holding a stingy piece in his tongs may be seen over the entrance of an exclusive Park Avenue apartment building. To make the meaning clearer, the figure is pointing to the ice and around his lips is a smile suggestive of many things.
On one of New York City's most modern skyscreapers, appears the carved figure of this lone fisherman. No one seems to know the meaning of it nor why it is there.
The supports of the extension canopy of an office building suggested ship's hawsers to the sculptor so he added climbing rats and shields to keep them from boarding the "ship".
What purpose does this singing girl, with her doll, serve, perched high up in a New York skyscreaper?
Under the main entrance to a fashionable Fifht Avenue church have been carved tiny heads, supposed to represent the types to be found in the congregation. Some are believed to be good-natured caricatures of prominient members of the church.
The modern girl, right, with a cigarette and a cane, is found perched on the fourth floor of a New York building in a niche where no one was told to place her.

Captions p. 21. Here is the janitor, left, who matches the iceman on facing page. The artist shows him in his natural state, sound asleep. In spite of this symbolic warning, the apartment hous is constantly rented and there is no complaint about the heating facilities.
As a companion piece on the opposite page, this stenographer, is found adorning the same ultra-modern building.
Directly opposite the figure of this boy with a bean shooter is a grouchy old man. Is it an accident that the boy is aming at the man? What purpose either figure serve in the building where only the observant will see them?
The great Einstein sits next to an angelover the main entrance of John D. Rockefeller's Riverside Church. You will find him second from right in the center row.
Is the figure, above, found in a New York structure, suggestive of the artist's experience with an indifferent auto mechanic? Note the flask on his hip and the air of indolence. At left, the man may be the grasping landlord for he has a big bag of money which he is puting away in his safe.
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