With 500 acres of rolling meadows and wooded groves Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, one hour north of New York City – arguably North America’s most beautiful sculpture park – just keeps getting better and better. Just when one asks what else Storm King can do that they haven’t already done in the past fifty-two years since their founding – you know how we all crave the new – like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, they surprise us with “Light & Landscape”, a thrilling exhibition that smacks of magic mixed with a heady dollop of science, physics, and ecological concerns.
“I just had to see how such a beguiling premise could be successfully realized, both indoors and out, in sculpture, installation, drawings, photography, as well as video.”
Deftly organized by Associate Curator Nora Lawrence, “Light & Landscape” features the art of fourteen artists “all who use a variety of strategies to engage with light as a central component of their work.” It was these very words, jumping out at me from their press release, which compelled me to visit Storm King. I just had to see how such a beguiling premise could be successfully realized, both indoors and out, in sculpture, installation, drawings, photography, as well as video. Much to my surprise I got more than I ever thought possible.
The exhibition with twenty-five permanent, on loan, and newly commissioned works was inspired, so says curator Lawrence, by Alyson Shotz’s stellar Mirror Fence (2003)—a 130 foot stretch of fence whose mirrored pickets reflect the viewer’s every movement, as well as the beauty of park’s surrounding landscape. Playing with the effects of light are two of Shotz’s angulated, laser-cut acrylic-ribboned sculptures titled Transitional Objects. Situated in a small indoor gallery, both works rely on light streaming through the gallery’s windows to bring the sun’s hidden colors to life.
Also using the light of the sun to activate their creations are artists Katie Holton, Spencer Finch, and Peter Coffin. On sunny days, Holton’s Sun Clock (Making Time) (2012) tells the time of day by using viewers’ shadows as they stand outside in front of one of the twelve monthly planet shaped markers. Timeline (A Light History of the Earth) (2012), situated indoors, is a Holton constructed circular bookshelf. Measuring 4.56 feet in diameter to match the earth’s 4.56 billion years of existence, the bookshelf is filled with books on the subject of light. Additional books on light, along with Adirondack chairs, are scattered throughout the park for the visitors’ reading and resting pleasure.
Anthony McCall, Peter Coffin, and Roni Horn, each tackling the subject of light in a different medium, occupy Storm King’s largest gallery. In Landscape for Fire, a 1972 video, McCall using fire as the medium of light sets a series of finely calibrated fires on a sports field at Oxford University. In Untitled (Weather) (2010-2011), a series of 5 colored photographs; Horn captures the subtle changes that varying weather conditions effect on one woman’s face. Resting on the floor nearby is Horn’s Untitled (“…it was a mask, but the real face was identical to the false one”) (2009-2010) a stunning sky-blue cube of solid glass polished to a fare thee well. Casting a yellow shadow across the entire room is Coffin’s Untitled (Yellow Outline) (2008-2012), a solitary window covered by the artist with thin layer of yellow translucent Solex stained glass film.
Isolated in the middle of a meadow like the house in Wyeth’s Christina’s World is Solarium (2012), William Lamson’s glimmering glass house composed of hundreds of small variously shaded amber panels of baked sugar sandwiched between panes of glass. Kaleidoscopic to say the least, the structure, which the artist refers to as an “experimental greenhouse” as it does house a few plants in the process of photosynthesizing, would not be out of place in a Disney film, or for that matter in a remake of the Wizard of Oz.
Equally magical are the creations of Katie Paterson. In Streetlight Storm (2009) the artist uses Skype to connect the lanterns above the building’s two entrances to an antenna in Britain, which detects lightning from the Arctic Circle to North Africa and transforms its signals into transmittable data that causes the lantern’s bulbs to flicker. In 100 Billion Suns (2011), a hand-held cannon designed by Paterson spews out 3,216 pieces of confetti, each one representing the 3,216 times sunbursts have been photographed since 1960. Shot off once a day at 2PM, this fusillade of confetti is a celebration of creativity. And for those leaving the park after a wonder-filled morning a festive Bon Voyage salute.
“Light & Landscape” is on view from May 12 – November 11, 2012.