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Broadway Sidewalk 1984

by Ken Hiratsuka, 1959

Look down and you’ll see one of Ken Hiratsuka’s pieces etched into the sidewalk. The maze-like carvings at the corner of Prince and Broadway started part of a guerilla art movement he called One Line Sculptures that works its way through natural stones and public sites across the globe. Together, all the pieces around the world reduce the earth to one huge rock. All the works are fluid and free—part of the dichotomy of working on rocks. The only rules are that each piece is created from one line, and that the line never crosses itself.

The piece at Prince and Broadway holds a special place in the series because it was the first one. It was done covertly over many nights, with one eye on the art and the other looking out for the law. As Ken explained to us, the piece almost wasn’t completed. One night his friend, Toyo Tsuchiya, came with him to shoot photos of the process when suddenly they noticed a light flashing in front of them. The police had driven up the one-way street the wrong way and caught them by surprise. Ken told us:

“I dropped the hammer and chisel and rubbed the powdery white surface of the granite sidewalk with my hands. I looked at the police woman and smiled, saying hello. She smiled back to me and looked down the unfinished carving on the sidewalk from her driver’s seat of the police car. She did not say a thing. She turned around and left me and my photographer on the sidewalk. I could not believe it. Magical relief flooded me, and my shoulders lightened… I went back some more times to the sidewalk and finally finished the carving on that corner 1984 October. It took me one year to finish this corner.”

The line between art and vandalism is often blurred, and this piece—which started as sidewalk graffiti—is now a landmark in the neighborhood. Each day, it is changed by the wearing of thousands of people stepping over it, snow melting into it, sun lightening it, and other environmental factors.

Ken has other pieces from the One Line series in the area, each evoking unique imagery, such as Keith Haring’s cartoonish outlines or prehistoric cave drawings. A few pieces were commissioned by Tony Goldman of Goldman Properties, like the large carving in front of 25 Bond that is often described as wavelike, perhaps due to the oceanic curves of the building across the street. As Ken says, “I want to inspire people to become more conscious of nature and our common humanity… In my art there are no social, economic, cultural or political distinctions. We are all one.”


1984 Ken Hiratsuka finishes sculpting sidewalk art on Prince & Broadway

Reference Links

tidbit Tony Goldman
sight Bond Street
link Ken Rock Official Website
article Underfoot, Artist at Work
article 25 Bond Gets Rocked by Chiseler Ken Hiratsuka
internal gDoc
internal Ken Hiratsuka Finding the Heartbeat of a Stone

Talking Points

  • hard to find information about this piece, found the photo, emailed Ken
  • the story from Ken: created over several months, ken scared of being discovered worked at night, one night with photographer friend, police car drives up, Ken tries to downplay, officer simply smiles and drives off
  • police car coming other direction
  • 1 year to complete
  • Ken’s story: wanted to escape the rigid Japanese art system and came to New York
  • idea of the continuous line: deeper experience of life, conscious of nature, we are all one
  • think about: vandalism, the unnoticed splendor/stories of nyc