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Roving Rube

Outdoor Art

June 14, 2003

J. Seward Johnson's "Taxi!", Midtown Park Avenue












This guy was installed here in 1983, but he seems less realistic to us than he used to.

Perhaps it is not so much the clothes and hair as the fact that he is slender and middle-aged. Most of the investment bankers you see (and we assume that anyone in this area during the day is an investment banker unless we hear them talking about something that a banker wouldn't) are younger, and heavier, either just overweight like so many these days, but often more muscular from going to the gym. And bankers usually have limos -- not really limos but four-doored black cars -- which park in a row outside the buildings to shuttle them where they need to go. They don't usually have to flag down cabs like this.

One wonders how long he will hold his place here -- another fifty years? Will people still know what it means to hail a taxi then? Will his clothes seem ridiculous?

A differently painted version of this statue was on display in Stamford, Connecticut. This particular exhibition had 41 figures by Johnson and a like-minded artist, Prince Monyo Mihailescu-Nasturel, "last in a line of descendants of Romanian Voevods (Kings)"; see

A Johnson sculpture in New York City of a man hailing a taxi reportedly caused more than one cabbie to slam on the brakes to get the fare before the fleet grew accustomed to it.

The first bronze work in the style that has made his work in demand was a man sitting on park bench reading a newspaper in a Princeton, N.J., park.

``At the time, in the '70s, people were getting afraid to go into the parks,'' he said. ``They were deserted.

``I thought that if we put a presence in the park, a figure to serve as a witness or a decoy, that people might start coming back in. I read that women, especially, were afraid of going to the park, even in the day, so the next figure I made was of a woman standing in the park looking through her purse.'' (article by Richard O. Jones)

NYCJPG has previously featured Johnson's work on 5/27/03.



















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