NYC - Greenwich Village: Picasso's Bust of Sylvette
The University Village, a residential "superblock" complex set on five acres north of Houston Street between Mercer Street and LaGuardia Place, was designed by architect James Ingo Freed of I.M. Pei & Associates for New York University (NYU) and completed in 1967. The complex, which consists primarily of three identical 30-story, reinforced concrete, buff-colored, Brutalist-style towers, is centered around a courtyard and a 60-ton, 36-foot-tall concrete sculpture enlargement of Pablo Picasso's 1934 Bust of Sylvette, exeucted by Carl Nesjär and Sigurd Frager in 1967 and dedicated on December 9, 1968.
I.M. Pei chose which of the five busts from the Picasso's Sylvette series--a painted metal construction series inspired by Sylvette David, a young woman Picasso met in 1954--to enlarge. Nesjär, a Norweigan sculptor, and Frager, executed this piece using the Betograve technique of sandblasting which Nesjär first introduced to Picasso in 1956. In Betograve sandblasting, a colored aggregate stone is tightly packed around a metal armature and placed in a strong wooden box. Cement grout is pumped into the box and then drawings made on the cement surface are sandblasted to reveal the colored aggregate underneath.
The colossal sculpture combines a profile and frontal view of a young woman's head, neck, and shoulders. The outlines of bangs and a ponytail emerge through the textured surfaces on both sides of the flat, concrete slabs. It has no front or back, but rather a series of angles.
University Village was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2008.