The Hammering Man

Hammering Man, 1991 — Jonathan Borofsky, Photo: Corey Blaustein

If you are visiting Seattle and are walking on 1st avenue towards the world famous Pike Place Market, you will probably come into contact witch a 48 foot tall silhouette of a man with a hammer. Every fifteen seconds his hand will come down and “hammer” out the air in front of him.

“Hammering Man” came to fruition in 1991 by American artist Jonathan Borofsky. It was commissioned by a variety of organizations and is currently owned by the city. It is one of many “Hammering Men” have popped up in cities and cultural centers around the world since 1979. There are currently 11 Hammering Man sculptures scattered across the globe.

Borofsky hasn’t stated much about the origin of this sculpture. When looking around for quotes, I could only come across one that describes Hammering Man for him as “The worker in myself…if I can get myself moving and start doing something physical, I usually feel good.”(Sculpture Magazine)

A lot of people have talked about the Hammering Man and they all mention the blatant nod to the blue collar worker.

The Hammering Man is a worker. The Hammering Man celebrates the worker. He or she is the village craftsman, the South African coal miner, the computer operator, the farmer or the aerospace worker-the people who produce the commodities on which we depend. (Wikipedia)

The first thing you notice when you walk up to this behemoth is the fact that it situated right in front of the Seattle Art Museum. This correlation, while obviously apparent, is just scratching the surface.

Let’s look at the environment in which it is placed:

The sculpture is the first large scale work you see as you walk north on 1st Avenue from Pioneer Square (the oldest part of Seattle) to Pike Place Market. The market is the central meeting place for fish mongers, farmers, and crafters. Pioneer Square used to be the financial epicenter of Seattle during the turn of the century, where industry and consumerism met.
The placement of this sculpture on this roadway that connects two historical locations of the city is no mere coincidence. It is a symbol of the rugged origins of the city as a lumber outpost and the thriving mercantile port it became (and still is), all held up by the never ending work of its residents.

In many ways its a reminder that the work to build communities never stops.

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