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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Storm King Art Center: The Perfect Art Park

Storm King Art Center: The Perfect Art Park
text/photos by Samuel Gruber

A few weeks ago I was Downstate visiting and took the opportunity for a half-day visit to Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, not far from West Point.  Storm King's rolling hilly acres of lush landscape filled with modern sculpture is the inspiration for scores of sculpture parts - most more urban than this - across the world.

Here is a gallery of labeled photos

 There is program of meaning in the individual works or on their placement.  Most of the sculptures are studies in form, materials, color and the interplay of light and shadow and solid and void.  Still, for those who come prepared, certain associations are inescapable, and perhaps the artists meant them to be so.

Alexander Calder's great stabile "arch" near the part entrance recalls ancient isolated Roman arches such as those at Benevento, Timgad or Salonika, or in the Roman forum.  Once straddling important roads they are not solid, stolid sculptural monuments.

 The extraordinary collection of David Smith sculptures near the musuem building demonstrate is movement away form the human form, but all his works are human scaled, and they are like an assembled of people, or massed together, a sculptural Greek chorus commenting on the works around them.

Noguchi great hilltop Momo Taro grows out of the earth, like lithic eggs hatching new ideas.  This is work closest to the prehistoric passions and archetypal elements.

 Alice Aycock's  Three-fold Manifestation II, on the other hand, is forward looking, or at least was in the 1980s.  It looks space-age modern, but in the era of stream-punk seems quaintly, but elegantly, utopian in am early Star Trek sort of way.

Mark di Suvero's massive and magisterial steel Frog Legs is in its siting, size and symmetry among the most monumental works in the park.  It is also the most "historic," in that it so closely recalls the traditional of giant hilltop  crucifixes.  Was the intent?

On the other end of the scale is Alexander Liberman's Adonai, titled after the euphemistic name of God sanctioned by Judaism for millennia.  Liberman's tumbled massive forms are powerful and enigmatic, the jostling lines of the steel tubes recall the unpronounceable (and unknowable) tetragrammaton written to indicate the name of God, here perhaps a stand-in for the language of art.

Of course, there are older inspirations for the such a park lay-out, and Storm King draws its forms, plans and strength from the disposition of prehistoric megaliths (think Stonehenge), Roman villas (think the Getty Malibu reconstruction of the Villa dei Papyri from Pompeii), Renaissance pleasure gardens (think Villa Borghese or the Boboli Gardens, Florence), and English pastoral landscape parts (think Downton Abbey on PBS).

One sees works by many of the artists represented at Storm King on College campuses (think Princeton) and Corporate Parks (think Pepsico), but the works never look so good as they do here.  We only had a few hours so covered no more than half the area.  In any case, since exhibitions and installation large and small change annually, it is worth a return visit.  I was surprised not to see good photos easily accessible online, so am posting this album.  These image represent only a fraction of the extensive Storm Collection.  I'll probably write more on some of the individual works, such as The Jewish aspect of Liberman's  "Adonai," and the sculptural potentialities of plastic exhibited in Manuel Bromberg's "Catskill."

Meanwhile, take a trip this summer to Storm King.  You will not be disappointed.  Go for the whole day, take a picnic lunch, and get there early to rent a bicycle.