Titled “New York’s Golden Age of Bridges: Paintings by Antonio Masi,” exhibit
features 18 massive paintings of nine city bridges
Many artists over the years have painted the bridges of New York City, but few have been as singularly committed to painting all nine of the city’s major long-span bridges as Antonio Masi. An exhibition of 18 of Masi’s celebrated bridge paintings will be on display in the gallery space at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights from Saturday, May 12 to Sunday, September 30, 2012.
Antonio Masi emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1947 at the age of seven alongside his parents and seven brothers and sisters. His grandfather Francesco had come to New York City fifty years earlier and worked hauling steel for the construction of the Queensboro Bridge. The tales of Francesco’s bridge-building were passed down in the Masi family and were a point of great intrigue for young Antonio, who loved to draw. Upon arriving in New York, Masi became enamored with the city’s iconic bridges and dreamed of one day making them the subjects of his art.
It was not until the age of sixty, after his three children were grown and he had retired from a successful graphic arts business, that Masi was finally able to turn his full attention to painting the city’s bridges. He would start in 2000 with the Queensboro, paying homage to the work and spirit of his late grandfather.
Accolades, honors and exhibitions were quick to come, including a “Best Art of 2006” award from The Artist’s Magazine; appearances in Works on Paper at the American Watercolor Society’s Annual Show; and inclusion in the New York Armory show in 2008. In 2009 the New York City Bridge Centennial Commission sponsored a one-man exhibition of Masi’s Queensboro paintings, displayed at the Fardom Gallery in Long Island City. Additionally, the Forbes Gallery hosted a solo exhibition in 2010.
Masi’s paintings are often distinguished by his anomalous use of watercolor, generally considered a light and airy medium. “I discovered that watercolor can also be used in a thick manner,” he explains, “and it can express the heaviest subjects imaginable. With watercolor, I contrast the mass, power and delicacy of my subjects.”
In 2011, the critically acclaimed book New York’s Golden Age of Bridges was published by Fordham University Press, combining Masi’s paintings with insightful essays by author and New York City historian Joan Marans Dim. The book describes an age that was a testament to human ingenuity, where architectural innovation, consummate determination and daring vision came together in uniting the five boroughs.
The exhibition at the New York Transit Museum features eighteen of Masi’s paintings – two of each of his subjects: the Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Queensboro, Manhattan, George Washington, Triborough, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs-Neck and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges. The accompanying exhibition text, written by Joan Dim, provides a concise history of these masterpieces of engineering.
Masi’s works serve to celebrate an era of achievement – from the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886 to the Verrazano-Narrows in 1964 – which has provided the foundation for the modern age of transit. A gallery talk and book signing with the artist and author is planned.
Funding for New York’s Golden Age of Bridges: Paintings by Antonio Masi is provided, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.
About the New York Transit Museum
The New York Transit Museum is one of the few museums in the world dedicated to telling the story of urban mass transit, from the people who developed it, to those who operate and ride it, to the city and region it has helped to shape, and the art that it inspires. The Museum is housed in an decommissioned 1936 subway station on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10am to 4pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 5pm. Admission is $5/child and $7/adult.
Image: “Sunset – Brooklyn Bridge II,” © Antonio Masi