and airy: DeWitt Godfrey’s Picker Sculpture.
Too Far a Field
Fields Sculpture Park, Art Omi International Arts Center,
If you’ve ever been to the Storm King Art Center, or wanted
to go, here’s a terrific alternative that’s free and a shorter
trip: The Fields Sculpture Park at Art Omi is about a half-hour’s
drive from Albany and, in addition to its ever-growing collection
of permanent outdoor installations, it is currently featuring
12 important artists in Summer Selections 2005.
site is a mix of woods, swampy lowland and rolling fields
in a quiet, country setting a good distance from any major
highway. The organization behind it is also quiet: Privately
funded, Art Omi offers summer residencies for musical composers,
writers, dancers and artists from around the world, and mounts
performances based on the residents’ work. But it is best
known for the Fields, where carefully curated, generally minimalist
sculpture by major artists has been sited in long-term or
permanent placement since 1998, under the tutelage of architectural
and marital partners Peter Franck and Kathleen Heike Triem.
The featured works range from relatively traditional marbles
on extended loan from the estate of the late Stanley Boxer
to cutting-edge, site-specific pieces by Korean resident artist
Hyungsub Shin to work by four big-name artists on loan from
the Carol and Arthur Goldberg Collection. This is a big, diverse
treasure trove of stuff in a variety of settings that will
please any fan of modern art. Adding even a cursory look at
the rest of the collection will make for at least a couple
of hours of tramping around the grounds.
Whether random, map-guided or personally-guided, the walk
(or roll—I believe a wheelchair or motorized scooter would
be able to make the tour) promises a very pleasurable sense
of discovery, as works of art reveal themselves from a distance
or more suddenly, and as the often particularly sophisticated
sitings cast their spell. While all art installations rely
on a successful collaboration between the maker and the curator
to create the final exhibition, this is even more pronounced
in outdoor sculptural installations. Here, the vision of the
curator-architects and their able assistants makes for excellent
spatial relationships all around.
Some examples: Near the entrance to the exhibit, DeWitt Godfrey
has filled the space between two large trees from the ground
up to 12 or 15 feet high with a brace of Cor-Ten steel hoops,
forming an elegant composition of airy ovals through which
much of the landscape can be seen in lovely, soft shapes.
Defying the actual weight of the material, and the expectations
of the viewer for outdoor art placement, this piece accomplishes
the rare and enviable feat of transforming the space it occupies
as well as our perception of it.
In the woods, where intimacy holds sway, the four Boxer marbles
stand as sentinels of their maker’s feel for his materials.
Each is of a different local stone, and each bears minimal
marking and forming, playing up the natural colors and patterns
of the marble. Together, they form a conspiratorial group
that welcomes and challenges our scrutiny. Not far away, a
brashly shiny rectangle of stainless steel hangs squarely
from cables in the trees to reflect the woodsy image, disappearing
while multiplying the scene. Far from pastoral, however, the
panel is riddled with bullet holes—pumped there by the artist,
Magdalen Abakanowicz, in the direction facing right at the
Shin’s witty, almost fantastical installation is at the edge
of the woods where they give way to marshy climes in one direction
and open fields in another. His five Electrees are
made of colorful electrical hardware—cable, wire nuts, clamps
and so on—and their Hobbit-like forms cling to the rocks,
hummocks and tree roots, blending in despite their preposterousness.
Out on the clover meadow, bigger shapes grace longer views
and softer transitions under a big sky and (on most days this
summer) ruthless sun. >From the Goldbergs, two garden installations
and two cast metal sculptures join another Abakanowicz and
several previously installed works. Nestled into a landscaped
hillock like a natural waterfall is Cascade—a spill
of limestone blocks stacked in carefully arrayed rows like
a wide staircase—by Carl Andre (the O.J. Simpson of the art
world); a couple hundred yards away, an actual cascade is
imprisoned by Olafur Eliasson upon a metal chute that connects
two artificial pools. A strobe light flashes behind the thin
falling stream, oddly out of place in the brilliant daylight.
Of the castings, one by Nancy Dwyer, titled The Age of
the Death of Iron(y), is not at all surprisingly made
of iron. It spells in oversized gothic printer’s type the
word “iron(y),” with only the “y” being reversed as it would
be on a press. I found the piece witty, with a nice rusty
presence—though it’s a good bit more pop than its companions,
Abakanowicz’s two grim facing effigies in bronze titled Gigant
and Son of Gigant.
The other casting is an untitled group of four bronze forms
on a granite plinth by Tony Cragg that is beautifully sited
so as to appear to be listening to a nearby swamp. It is easily
one of the finest pieces in this wonderful playground for
Also included in Summer Selections 2005 are Steven
Brower’s obsessively detailed LEM (lunar excursion
module); three aluminum columns by John Cross; creepy conceptual
billboards by the collective TODT; and two monumental wood
carvings by the ironic realist Bill Wilson.
The Fields Sculpture Park is located on Letter S Road in the
town of Ghent. For directions, go to www.artomi.org or call
Bovasso, Jean Shin, John F. Simon Jr.
Art Museum, through Sept. 11
Three artists with considerable international
reputations are showing simultaneously at the
University Art Museum in what amount to separate
John F. Simon Jr. creates computer art—whereas
other artists draw, paint and sculpt, Simon writes
code. The results, presented in a darkened West
Gallery, are ever-changing light images of geometry
and color visible in wall-mounted computer screens
or projected. One piece was adapted by Simon to
conform with the peculiar structural geometry
of the building’s walls—a marvelous possibility
of his medium—and the effect is satisfyingly mesmerizing.
Nina Bovasso has also engaged with the gallery’s
walls, by painting and drawing directly on them.
Her playful, explosive images struck me as somewhat
superficial, even decorative. Still, their energy
The weak link in the trio is Jean Shin. Her Accumulations
collect and reshape detritus—a trend now verging
on cliché—with little imagination or skill. Worse,
her digital photographs of “found installations”
are about as visually sophisticated as those of
the average undergraduate. Her success proves
that talking a good game can get a crummy artist
very far indeed.