Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A damp Druidic day at Storm King

Saturday in NW Connecticut was one of those perfect days - friends, art, music, good food - and a blissfully perfect, sunny but cooler day after all the heat. But on Sunday when we headed south towards home the skies were damp and cloudy, and we almost scuttled our plans to stop at Storm King, the fabled sculpture park on 500 acres just south of Newburgh, NY. Persevering through the rain and some museum quality potholes along the route was, however, one of our better decisions. Storm King at any time and in any weather is worth the trip, but on this gray moist day it took on mystical, Druidic associations that multiplied the many pleasures of the place. After all, Stonehenge itself is a monumental man-made structure centered in a vast landscape gently shaped by human intelligence, swirling out of a dampened mist to send a shiver of significance up your spine. The march of towering Mark di Suvero sculptures across a broad field and onto the crown of a rise will surely speak to future archeologists of some spiritual rite and purpose, even more so by the geometry of form and the bright orange steel against the more subtle shades of nature. We set off, passing great globes of rock among the cedars, followed by smaller concrete pieces that seemed a bit naked out in the woods, then crunched our way up a path onto Museum Hill where we could see sculptures above and below - rods of steel swaying in a valley, bright red metal shapes topping a hill. On the way down we found a meandering cage of bamboo climbing a ridge and spied below us an artist at work on a new construction, then rose again to come face to face with the spiky black notes of Chakaia Booker's parentheses around a distant Calder, and the carefully detailed monumental wooden works of Ursula von Rydingsvard. Down the road, past the many di Suveros, we spotted Andy Goldsworthy's wall (the first - there are now two), snaking out of the stream and into the woods, adding gravitas and humor in some kind of balance, with Roy Lichtenstein's Mermaid Boat nearby to inject an unexpected note of Pop Art zing into the soulful peace and quiet. One of the newest pieces is Maya Lin's Wave Field, created of earth itself - it seems to undulates as you watch, as though humming a soft tune of eternal presence. Here and there on this damp day an umbrella bobbed and swayed, recalling Christo's Umbrella Project of 1991, making for a nice contemporary art move out of the physical present into the mind (he is not represented at Storm King, to my knowledge.) Trekking back to the parking lot we passed a great black Calder highlighted against a field of high grass, thrilling in the effect of scale as it stood solidly dwarfing a couple beneath its arch, in something of a counterpoint to the ambitious scale of human efforts on display. No matter how large and ambitious, they pay a debt of humility to the grandeur of their setting.