In a small, tranquil traffic island park next to tree-lined Riverside Drive in the western part of Harlem, New York, stands a memorial to the great writer of The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison. The bronze sculpture is a large slab with the outline of a figure cut out of it, symbolizing the “universal, genderless” invisible man. After moving to New York in 1936, Ellison lived in a building across the street for much of his life.
The sculpture is by Elizabeth Catlett, an extraordinary teacher, sculptor and print-maker who died last year. She is probably best known for her series of prints called “The Negro Woman.” Although her work is on display in many major museums and galleries, this sculpture was her only commissioned work in New York when it was unveiled in 2003. Both Catlett and Ellison were Rosenwald fellows.
We were recently able to visit the memorial in person and take some photographs, which are posted below. The building pictured is 730 Riverside Drive, Ellison’s home. Be sure to click through the images to see larger versions. To learn more about the memorial click here.