Sunday, September 14, 2008

Park and Beacon

Sunday may be a day for doing chores around the house and watching football (I'll let the reader estimate the proportion of each activity), but Saturday was a day for driving a couple hours west to the Hudson to visit two artistic landmarks across the river from each other, the spacious Storm King Art Center and the post-60s gallery Dia:Beacon. Going with Ellen and one of her friends, Bekah, and Bekah's boyfriend Ben made this a kind of high-concept double date, I suppose.

This is a day trip well worth making within a radius of a couple hours' travel.

I went up to Storm King a couple of times when I lived in New York but hadn't been there for a few years. It's a pretty special place, with these large steel sculptures set out with way more space around them than they get in the urban plazas or museum courtyards where you usually see them. A particularly great area is populated by several compositions by Mark di Suvero, who works in a signature style of large steel-beam constructions. (He also works in Long Island City, Queens, and created the Socrates Sculpture Park there, though I always found that spot more notable for its scrappy energy than for its up-and-comers' artworks.) Also at Storm King are some large, late stabiles by Alexander Calder and a few installations by Alexander Liberman, who also created a sculpture outside the federal courthouse in New Haven.

It was a bit muggy for an extended hike up and down the park's hills, but I always like being there.

Dia:Beacon is surprisingly large in its own right, situated in a onetime box-printing facility that always seems to have another huge, high room beyond the one you're in. The collection harbors a kind of modular-minimalism fixation -- many of these sprawling rooms are occupied with inexactly repeating forms, whether they're paintings (Blinky Palermo) or wall drawings (Sol LeWitt) or nonfunctional IKEA-looking boxy white sculpture things (LeWitt again) or plywood cubes (Donald Judd). One room contains the only Andy Warhol work that I've genuinely enjoyed looking at, a series of variously colored abstract prints titled "Shadows" that mix-and-match a couple of forms with a large handful of bright or gloweringly dark colors. I felt that it hinted at an amorphous subsurface anxiety. Warhol called it "disco decor."

My favorite installation in the gallery is the four-part series of Torqued Ellipses by Richard Serra, these large weathered-steel gizzies that barrier off some then aesthetically charged interior space and, in one case, nests one form within another to create a disorienting fold of a corridor into the center. The moral of the story, similar to Storm King's, may be that art you can wander around in is a treat.

In between art landmarks we stopped for lunch, managing to find a barbecue place having its grand opening this very weekend in centrally located Newburgh. Very satisfying.

(from left: Ellen, Ellen's friend Bekah, Bekah's boyfriend Ben.)


Blogger nate said...

Very cool; I haven't made it out to Storm King yet (though I think I remember driving past its Thruway exit on the way to Utica once) but I get your point about how the space works for big sculpture.

I do have to say your last picture makes it look like you all walked into the cover art for some indie-pop band's major-label debut album.

9/15/2008 12:16 AM  

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