Spectre of Kitty Hawk, 1946-47
"The Spectre is the pterodactyl, an early denizen of the air both savage and destructive. Present-day aircraft has come to resemble this beast of prey, hence the re-incarnation of the pterodactyl at Kitty Hawk…." - Theodore Roszak
"No airplane or airplane part is recognizable in the piece, yet there is a soaring quality, a surging astronomic form that sweeps heavenward in a crescent from earth below; it suggests the realization of man's long urge to fly like a bird. Yet the spiky, jagged, tormented explosion of agonized form at its center reveals the corruption of Icarus' ancient dream and the Wright brothers' proud intervention, for in two horrible World Wars the airplane had become an instrument of mass destruction. " [ Wayne Craven, "Sculpture in America, From the Colonial Period to the Present", 1968]
"The abstract form alludes to the prehistoric pterodactyl image of evil reincarnated as the modern aircraft with its destructive connotations." [ Wayne Andersen, "American Sculpture In Process: 1930/1970", 1975]
Welded and hammered steel brazed with bronze and brass
40 1/4 x 18 x 15" (102.2 x 45.7 x 38.1 cm)
Collection: Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased 1950.
Awarded the Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Art Institute Medal in 1947.
"The whole idea here is that the aircraft has been used in a very destructive way and it recalled the superior dominance of the pterodactyl that at one time was also the scourge of the air and of the earth and is a kind of reincarnation of its evil intent, so therefore its visitation at Kitty Hawk was the embodiment again of the aircraft assuming the role of the pterodactyl. Except that here it was a case of man projecting his desires, rather than nature. That is why I called it the "Spectre", this visitation of force back to the same origin of flight, excepting that this was in terms of man-made possibilities rather than in the natural evolution of the species." [Theodore Roszak Interview with Elliott, 1956, p.16]
Study for "The Spectre of Kitty Hawk", 1946
Pen, brush and ink, and ink wash on paper
Irregular: 29 3/8 x 33 1/16 inches (74.6 x 83.9 cm)
Collection: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. (1966).
Study for Spectre of Kitty Hawk, 1946
Ink and wash
57 1/8 x 42 1/2 inches
Collection: Chazen Museum of Art. Madison, Wisconsin. Terese and Alvin S. Lane Collection (2012).