Invisible Man Sculpture, Harlem, NY

In 1998, the Ralph Ellison Memorial Committee was established to plan a memorial celebrating Ralph Ellison’s legacy in the neighborhood he loved. The Riverside Drive island at 150th Street was chosen as the site for the memorial. Ralph Ellison’s last and long-standing home at 730 Riverside Drive faces the site, and Ellison often strolled in this section of the Park. In 1998, the committee along with Riverside Park Fund sponsored a design competition for the project. The panel’s vote was unanimous in favor of the design submitted by Elizabeth Catlett. The Ralph Ellison Memorial Project is her first commissioned public work in New York City. The Invisible Man sculpture is a 15 foot high, 7 ½ foot wide, six inch thick slab of bronze featuring a cutout silhouette of a man. His struggle, Catlett suggests, is universal, genderless, and timeless. The artwork is the centerpiece of a restored area of Riverside Park, surrounded by a dramatic setting of dogwoods and azaleas from 149th to 153rd Street.


Catlett began work on the sculpture in the summer of 2001 and the sculpture was unveiled on May 1, 2003. Ralph Ellison’s widow, Fanny Ellison, who still lived at 730 Riverside Drive attended the ceremony, along with artist Elizabeth Catlett, Bill and Camille Cosby, actress Ruby Dee, Reverend Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church and many local politicians and residents of the Harlem community. Benches in memory of Ms. Catlett’s husband, Mexican artist Francisco Mora, and in tribute to former City Council member Stanley Michels, who allocated the majority of City funding for the memorial, were also unveiled that day.


Riverside Park Fund Grassroots Volunteers work to keep the area surrounding the monument clean and attractive.



  • Bill Wakefield 7y

    That's a really interesting story,Tony.This is a wonderful and most unusual sculpture in his memory,and must be unique in the fact that the subject of the sculpture is actually invisible,showing brilliant imagination and creativity by the sculptor. It's a stunning piece of work,thanks for sharing.
  • Tony Fischer 7y

    Thank you Bill and Benjy.
  • graceonthepond 3y

    And the sculptor, Elizabeth Catlett, was 86 when she did this work! She died this week at 96.
  • Tony Fischer 3y

    Elizabeth Catlett:

    An amazing woman!
  • lightninlives 3y

    Great pic! Let me know if it's ok to use it in a YouTube presentation (with attribution of course)
  • quayn 1y

    Hi! I'd like to use this photo on my blog Words of Popular Minds on Criminal Minds which will be posted this week. Attribution will be linked back to your name and flickr page. Please drop me a flickr message if you don't want me to use it and I'll remove it from my postings. Thank you so much for sharing.
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Taken on June 13, 2008
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