Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My 3rd favorite encounter with art in New York, the Dia Beacon, a massive former Nabisco printing plant turned art gallery, about 60 miles north of the city.
Inside: Seminal works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Louise Bourgeois, Hanne Darboven, Michael Heizer, Robert Irwin, On Kawara, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Robert Ryman, Robert Smithson, Lawrence Weiner and many others; none of which manage to outdo the space itself, which at 240,000 square feet has to be one of the most completely immersive environments I've ever encountered. The kind of place that makes you acutely aware of the sound of your own footsteps.
Two Highlights:
Fred Sandback's site specific sculptures, lengths of taught, coloured yarn (which I first took for the edges of enormous glass plates) cordoning off vast, rectangular areas of gallery space in such a way as to make any traditional conception of negative and positive space, artwork and setting, completely moot. I laughed out loud when I caught myself second guessing my urge to step "through" these spaces, out of some residual fear of trespassing or respect. Through what? Into what?
Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses, enormous Plates of Rolled Steel, each two inches thick and weighing twenty tons, configured into the most fearsome, disorientating and downright daunting gauntlet of passages imaginable. I'd read about the feelings of physical endangerment some viewers have experienced with these pieces, but I wasn't ready for the accelerated heart rate and cold sweat that they produced in me. Once inside, the weight and size of the surrounding steel walls is uncomfortably palapable. One configuration, a large circle, is accessed by squeezing through the tiniest opening imaginable, moving slowly along a sliver of a walkway between two of the plates, and eventually emerging into an inner area vastly larger than seems possible, judged from the outside. Disorientation reigns.
Other highlights: Louise Bourgeois's creepy 'attic' area of castrated cocks and crouching spiders, Gerhard Richter's enormous angled mirrors, Michael Heizer's skate bowl-like excavations of gallery floor.