Sculpture People Play

Gene Horvath carved his legacy out of bronze and steel sculptures, many of which dot Rockford’s landscape. But the Rockford resident’s art career did not start with those metal creations. Horvath was known in local art circles for his serigraphs of old Rockford homes before his first solo exhibit in 1972 at Burpee Museum [now Rockford Art Museum]. That solo exhibit, which featured paintings and small sculptures, became Horvath’s “moment of truth,” with the hope that he’d establish himself in the fine arts, according to a May 28, 1972, Sunday Register-Star article. In less than a year, he received his first private commission for a 1,500-pound abstract steel sculpture called Ichi, the Japanese word for one. More commissions followed, and Horvath continued sculpting on a part-time basis while working at the advertising agency Howard Monk & Associates. Despite the part-time moniker, “he found himself spending about 40 hours weekly with the agency and equal that amount of time pursing the sculptor’s art,” according to a Sept. 3, 1986, Rockford Register Star article. When Horvath retired from the advertising agency in 1986, he began sculpting full-time. At the time of his death on April 14, 1995, his portfolio included sculptures grounded in locations from Rockford to Rock Island, and from Dallas to Chandler, Ariz. “His work is so visible,” said Suzanne Kaufman, a retired Rock Valley College art professor, in the April 18, 1995, Rockford Register Star. “His sculptures are everywhere, but unfortunately, people don’t look at them and say, ‘Oh, there’s a Gene Horvath.’ ” A sampling of Horvath’s local public creations include Pulling Together, a bronze sculpture featuring Rockford’s three founders, Germanicus Kent, Lewis Lemon and Thatcher Blake, located near the old post office downtown; Olympic Sphere, a tribute to Rockford’s Olympic contenders, located at Valkommen Plaza; and Victory, a bronze piece honoring veterans near Memorial Hall. Horvath’s credits also include Suspended Motion and Sinnissippi River Crab, both in Sinnissippi Park. In 1976, then-Rockford Mayor Robert McGaw proclaimed April that year “Eugene Horvath Month” to recognize his work. Horvath graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.—Rockford Register Star, 2010

Placed at Nicholas Conservatory