First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr. is a public sculpture located on the steps of an office building at 50 Main St. in downtown White Plains, a small city just north of NYC. Created out of bronze, it depicts a lawyer with furrowed brow examining his papers in last-minute preparation for a court case.

I came across the sculpture of my first-ever trip to White Plains [indeed, my first-ever foray into Westchester County at all]. I didn’t know what to expect, but the downtown seems sleepy and is filled mostly with generic architecture, so finding this example of public art was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise desolate, uninspiring urban environment.

First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

I love the tape recorder!

First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

J. Seward Johnson Jr. is the grandson of Robert Wood Johnson I, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson. He started his career as a painter but then turned to life-size bronze trompe l’oeil sculpture, often depicting ordinary people in mundane situations.

A recent public art work of his is Forever Marilyn in Chicago, featuring Marilyn Monroe’s iconic pose over a subway grate in the film The Seven Year Itch. Aside from the fact that such a sculpture belongs in NYC [if anywhere], it has been used for inappropriate photo ops by tourists and is generally regarded as kitsch. By contrast, First Case enlivens an otherwise dull landscape in a way that I can definitely appreciate.

3 thoughts on “First Case by J. Seward Johnson Jr.

  1. …Were you in White Plains for 10 minutes? There is nothing desolate or sleepy about it. It’s the county seat of Westchester and has over 40,000 commuters during the day. Its downtown area is developing faster than any other suburb of New York City, and it offers some of the best schools, arts performances and food outside of Manhattan. There are sculptures all over the city in almost every park and on every corner in the downtown area…it seems like someone jumped right off the Bronx River Parkway, didn’t bother to stray more than half a mile from the high rise building complex there, took this picture and then made up the rest of the fill-in-the-blanks in this article. This is one of the best known and most clever of the sculptures in White Plains, but certainly not the only “breath of fresh” air in what you are calling an “urban” setting, the majority of which is actually mid- to upper-class owned .25 to 2 acre parcels of suburban property. Do your research.

  2. Alison, thanks so much for chiming in with all the details. Earlier this Spring, I spent a Friday in White Plains, split between downtown and the SUNY Purchase campus. It was a beautiful day, but unfortunately both places struck me as desolate and uninspiring. I was surprised that, even at lunchtime, there weren’t more people out and about downtown.

    This post isn’t really about White Plains; it’s just a record of an interesting public sculpture I encountered there. My intention was not to condemn the city, although I did not to enjoy my brief visit. I simply photograph and write about visual inspiration as I come across it, and this sculpture was certainly a nice find.

  3. Pingback: Man on the Street Series by J. Seward Johnson Jr. | Visualingual

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