Corrections or additions?
This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the September 5, 2000
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Artful Monuments of the Hudson Valley
Storm King." The name is allusive and kind of
exciting all by itself, suggesting Norse legends, Viking tales.
King" is, first of all, a mountain in New York State, near the
Hudson River, and some 60 miles north of Manhattan. Between it and
Schunemunk Mountain, in a valley among the rolling Hudson Highlands,
"Storm King" is also a notable art center featuring a museum
devoted to contemporary sculpture and 500 acres of varied landscape
on which it is displayed. A sumptuous visual treat, as well as a
for as much vigorous walking as you could want, "Storm King"
is a great destination for a day trip anytime from now to
when it closes for the winter months. If fall foliage is among your
pleasures, this year’s display, following summer months of rain, rain,
rain, is expected to provide spectacular color throughout the Hudson
Hundreds of acres go a long way in siting monumental modern
And at Storm King Art Center, the extensive fields and woodlands that
make up those acres serve to further isolate from one another the
many gigantic works on view. Aerial views of the place best illustrate
the calculated spots of color located in the greenery, grassy meadows,
woods, and hills. The total number of works on site changes, but there
are more than 100 sculptures placed outdoors, with the museum’s
devoted to smaller, more delicate pieces, and related displays.
also a gift shop and information center at the art center.
After two visits in dramatically different weather — pouring rain
on a warm day last November, and a bright, breezy Maytime this year
— it’s easy to declare that the place warrants visiting at any
time in any wather. With congenial travel companions, the ride from
here to there, via Turnpike, Parkway, and Thruway, passes quickly.
There’s even a more than decent traveler’s pit stop near the end of
the Garden State Parkway.
Parts of the trip are quite scenic, with the road carved through
and sun and shadows on green hills; the closer you get to Storm King’s
home in Mountainside, New York, the more unlike central Jersey it
looks. You’ll pass the outlet stores at Woodbury Commons on your way
in, and right over that row of mountains flows the majestic Hudson
River, with West Point and Bear Mountain State Park among the nearby
attractions. You may well have glimpsed the art center grounds as
you zoomed along the New York Thruway toward Canada. But be advised,
by the time you begin to view tantalizing sculptures from the highway,
you are seven miles beyond your desired exit, Exit 16.
A converted Normandy-style chateau that dates back to 1935 was once
the main attraction of Storm King, currently celebrating its 40th
anniversary year. The chateau, which serves as a museum, is the first
structure you reach after the park’s entrance booth. And from its
portico, you can almost reach out and touch a giant black Cor-ten
steel sculpture, Louise Nevelson’s "City on the High
Near the museum stands one of the newest works on view at Storm King
Art Center, and a harbinger of this season’s featured sculptor, Andy
Goldsworthy. Sturdy pieces of curved wood have been woven and knitted
into a colossal sphere, a tremendous wooden ball. Inside, a second
ball of sticks crowds the gallery space. While both are the same size,
they appear different because of the contexts in which they’re placed.
A native of Great Britain, Goldsworthy has created "elemental"
outdoor artworks all over the world. He also makes ephemeral works
that change and deteriorate through contact with nature and the
"Andy Goldsworthy at Storm King Art Center" really began a
few years ago, when the artist began a commissioned sculpture: a
high, 2,278-foot long serpentine field stone wall. Monumental in a
sinuous, horizontal sense, Goldsworthy’s "Wall that Went for a
Walk (Storm King Wall)" meanders all over the Storm King scene,
built of 1,579 tons of stone found on the park from the property.
The sculpture-wall crosses old farm roads, zig-zags around trees,
travels through a pond then moves across a field toward the Thruway.
Other Goldsworthy works on view at Storm King this season include
his preparatory drawings for the sculpture-wall and photographs of
ephemeral works he made in the area; a stone enclosure bridging the
inside and outside the building; and a gray-clay installation that
changes as the material dries. At first, it resembled a still-wet
cement floor; in time, the surface will crack and a wall-like form
will emerge, seeming to point out of the museum toward the woods.
Storm King was founded in 1960 by Ralph Ogden and H. Peter Stern,
then joint owners of Star Expansion Company. Ogden originally
a museum of Hudson Valley painters, housed in the chateau, but became
interested in sculpture in 1961 when he visited a marble quarry in
Austria. When he subsequently saw David Smith’s monumental sculptures
set in open fields outside his home and studio in upstate New York,
Storm King purchased a large group of work from the artist’s estate.
This core group of 13 David Smith sculptures now anchor the collection
of works by modern masters that include Calder, Moore, and Nevelson.
In 1972 the art center began acquiring and commissioning large-scale
sculpture for its fruitful interaction with the grand natural site.
A significant part of Storm King’s post-1945 permanent collection
are the abstract welded steel sculptures of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s,
which, thanks to available technology and artists’ desire to work
on a huge scale, outgrew sculpture’s traditional indoor confines.
Like Cyrano’s nose, these pieces are, "well, rather large."
Sometimes several stories high, they need the uncrowded Storm King
venue, in which many works stand in splendid, necessary isolation.
At the same time, some sculptors’ works are grouped loosely together,
in their own ample space while yet in proximity. For instance, most
of Mark di Suvero’s eight angular, colorful works are within hailing
distance of one another; visitors can hike from "Pyramidian"
to "Mother Peace," and beyond "For Chris" to
Walking facilitates coming upon each sculpture in its outdoor context,
and appreciating that, too.
A land transformation is underway at Storm King,
to reintroduce native long grasses and wildflowers into fields that,
with the cessation of farming in the mid-20th century, had succumbed
to invasive plants. Now in the fourth of a projected six or seven
years, the program has already seen creation of "flowing
of alfalfa, buckwheat, and oats. It’s a beautiful — and functional
— sight: wide-mown walkways curving through growing fields to
provide access to sculptures. These, together with the art center’s
hills and woodlands, creates one dramatic vista after another, with
each sculpture appearing as a kind of flower in the landscape. And
another, more ubiquitous flower has adapted to the terrain: dandelion
shafts reach monumental heights to make their presence known among
the high grasses.
Most recently, David Smith’s sculpture — the 13 steel pieces that
are seminal to Storm King — was highlighted. Grouped in loose
proximity to one another, the works provided an amazing overview of
Smith’s oeuvre. The art center’s two works by Henry Moore are sited
near each other, as are two pieces by Barbara Hepworth, and, nearly
hidden on a shaded, grassy hillside, two low-lying and highly
works by Nam June Paik, "Waiting for UFO" (1992).
Three steel works by Alexander Calder are imposingly placed along
a wide hilltop, visible from many vantage points, while Menashe
"Suspended" is positioned to startling effect in a valley
surrounded by tall grasses. (Elsewhere, his "Eight Positive
look like someone else’s work — they are so rounded and
a diametrical difference from "Suspended.") Aphrodite is the
subject of at least two sculptures at Storm King: one, a supine figure
in a bed of close-growing vines; the second, Isaac Witkin’s abstract
"Birth of Aphrodite."
With his site-specific commission, "Momo Taro," Isamu Noguchi
provides a relief from the dominant angularity and ponderous steel
pieces. His 1977-’78 work in nine parts, made from Japanese granite
for a custom-built hillside at Storm King, is curving, welcoming.
One of just two sculptures that visitors are invited to touch, and
to sit on and in, "Momo Taro" attracted numerous children
and adults apparently eager for direct interaction with sculptural
form. Grace Knowlton’s "Spheres," comprised of concrete balls
of varied sizes and surfaces, holds ineffable appeal, and the
in Glass Houses" of Magdalena Abakanowicz are, without a title
in view, sheerly, eerily, mysterious. Alexander Liberman’s tubular
"Adam," in orange-painted steel, contrasts beautifully with
the landscape in any season. His "Adonai" and "Iliad"
are here too.
Although picnic areas and vending machines are available, it’s
wise to carry car snacks in case like us, you eat at unconventional
times; on neither of our visits could we find a notable spot outside
the art center grounds for a late lunch. In fact, we wondered what
area residents do at regular lunch times — that’s how slim the
pickin’s looked. Another possibility: have a hearty breakfast on the
parkway, then press on for a post-sculpture park supper near home.
So despite its imposing name, Storm King is a benign place that houses
some mighty works of sculpture. Benign, if not wholly welcoming. On
two visits, we found employees — its only living representatives
— to be reserved at best. But don’t go to Storm King to make new
friends. Go there for the sculpture and the setting — both
New York, 845-534-3115. Open daily 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to November
15. Free guided tour daily at 2 p.m. Admission $7 adult; $5 seniors;
best reached by car via the New Jersey Turnpike to the Garden State
Parkway, then the New York Thruway (I-87) North. Take Exit 16,
and turn right on Route 32 for 10 miles, then left after the green
bridge onto Orrs Mill Road.
— Pat Summers
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