The fiberglass men of Skylunchland

A few days back, I presented a little art quiz: to identify the source of a piece of conceptual art I called Skylunch III (mounted on a pickup truck passing through Columbus Circle in NYC)


(#1) The Columbus Circle Skylunch III of 6/28/19 (photo by Bob Eckstein) — hereafter, Skylunch IIIA, or just IIIA for short

This was clearly a version of a similarly mounted Sergio Furnari sculpture I called Skylunch II (in mixed media, with metallic finish), which in turn was a three-dimensional homage to a famous 1932 photograph Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam).

It turns out that IIIA is just Furnari again, but Furnari overseeing a much stranger world than the one of Skylunch II: a land of fiberglass men, demi-clones of the ones in Skylunch I and II, with features varied in many ways, large and small. There’s a whole universe of potential Skylunch IIIs, populated by the fiberglass men of Skylunchland. Apparently, each day a truck goes out — or, maybe, several trucks, it’s hard to know — with a different selection of men on it, in different numbers, arranged in different ways.

I have clear evidence of two different ones currently on the streets of NYC, but of course any number could be created at any time.

(Many tips of the hat to Max Meredith Vasilatos — referred to as MMV below.)

The background. Skylunch II, the immediate predecessor of and model for Skylunch III:


(#2) Furnari’s Lunchtime on a Skyscraper — A Tribute to America’s Heroes (2001)

And the original photograph, Skylunch I:

(#4)

Skylunch I and II have 11 men in them. Skylunch IIIA seems to have 8; here’s a closeup of men 5 through 7 in it, viewed from below (from Furnari’s Deskgram site):

(#5)

I’m going to focus on two of the men in #5, the second (Big Cap) and the third (Shirtless).

Big Cap (the 6th in the row) has a notably lined face; in IIIA he has a cigar in his mouth, he’s wearing heavy protective gloves, and he has what appears to be a pizza box with a MADE IN AMERICA logo on it. Shirtless (the 7th in the row) is facing forwards but looking to his right, at Big Hat.

Now look at another Skylunch III — IIIB — here in two views, one from Getty Images, one from Furnari’s Deskgram site:


(#6) The Getty caption: “A pickup carrying a sculpture of iron workers, by Sergio Furnari, drives in New York City traffic August 23, 2018”


(#7) IIIB out of traffic, with its labels easily legible

Skylunch IIIB has 9 men in it. Shirtless (the 5th in the row) is now turned to the side, towards the 4th man. And Big Cap is now at the end, in 9th position. He has no cigar, no gloves, and no box in his hand — instead, he’s holding what looks like a bottle of liquor, possibly slivovitz. A closeup of the last four men:


(#8) Closeup of IIIB (from Furnari’s Deskgram site), men 6 through 9 (with a bit of the 5th man, Shirtless); you can also see boxes with Furnari’s URL and with MADE IN USA as labels

The more you study IIIA and IIIB, the more detailed differences you’ll find in them. Both are clearly descendants of Skylunch II, but have diverged in different directions. Furnari and his staff can, of course, treat each figure separately, varying their details and their placement in the overall composition.

Presumably, you could buy a copy of just one of these figures, tailored to your individual specifications (Shirtless without a cap, or with a different one, or wearing a red bandanna, or with a Coke bottle in his right hand, or wearing torn jeans, or whatever), though Furnari’s website (sergiofumari.com) says nothing about buying his fiberglass figures, separately or in sets (I’m assuming they’re fiberglass, though his website says nothing about their composition).

The website is all about selling various incarnations of Skylunch II — in various sizes (5-inch-high miniatures, selling for $895 – $6,600; 11-inch versions, going for $2,200 – $11,932; and life-sized sculptures, priced at $220,000 – $1.1 million) — and in steel, bronze, and ceramic.

Identifying Skylunch III. This turned out to be a surprisingly difficult task. MMV spent quite some time on it, discovering in the process that there are huge numbers (“bazillions”, in MMV’s terms) of reproductions of, transformations of,  homages to, and parodies and burlesques of Skylunch I, almost all in two dimensions. It’s really quite astounding — much like the similar genre of Last Supper reworkings. And just as with the Last Supper reworkings, almost all of which lose the religious content of the original and the internal drama of the event, almost all the reworkings of Skylunch I lose both its passionate celebration of working class heroes and its affectionate astonishment at the creation of modern New York City.

MMV found one three-dimensional reworking, which she described as “an abstract of the iconic picture done in steel”: the competition-winner steel sculpture Steel Shots: Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, designed by the Arup consulting engineering firm in San Francisco:


(#9) The 2014 tabletop sculpture (the competition requires that entries have to fit into a 2-ft x 2-ft x 2-ft box and be made entirely of steel)

From the Modern Steel Construction site (for AISC, the American Institute of Steel Construction), “Steel Shots: ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ Scupture” on 4/4/14, an announcement of the winning steel sculpture in AISC’s third SteelDay Sculpture Competition .

Arup is a consulting engineering firm in SF, founded in London in 1946 by the English engineer Sir Ove Nyquist Arup; the company did the structural engineering for the Sydney Opera House, among many other projects.

Somewhere in there MMV said in passing that she assumed Skylunch III was a fiberglass work, and with “fiberglass” added to my searches I eventually got to the Getty image in #6 and ultimately to the rest of the stuff above, though it was a tedious slog.

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