Outdoor “galleries” defined by the changing sky and landscape
May 15, 2020
Storm King Art Center, a large-scale sculpture park is an outdoor museum that changes with the seasons. It is a dynamic place where Nature and Man create together. As nature changes during the different seasons of the year, so does the art scenery with always new sculptures and exhibitions to be discovered in its landscape throughout the year.
Storm King Art Center is unique in scale, both in terms of its site - 500 acres in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley - and the large-scale sculpture, as well as its site-specific commissions that make up its collection. As its mission, the Art Center is committed to create a dynamic and unique place to explore art in nature. In fact, another uniqueness of the Art Center is its objective and drive since opening in 1960, to steward the hills, meadows, and forests of its site and surrounding landscape.
The Storm King Art Center is not just a statue park, it is much more than that. It also values relationships with artists and encourages the development of their ideas and practices. It supports and collaborates with artists to realize some of their most ambitious works, always considering the placement of works within the landscape and viewshed, and how the artworks are in conversation with the natural world.
In fact, Storm King collects, exhibits, and conserves modern and contemporary art for the future generations as a cultural heritage of humanity. These range from large-scale sculptures throughout the landscape, to site-specific earthworks, to related drawings and photographs. They all together form an energetic and particular place to discover and explore art in nature.
Storm King’s founders, Ralph E. Ogden and his son- in-law H. Peter Stern were co-owners of the Star Expansion Company, based in Mountainville, New York nearby the Art Center’s current site. Ogden loved the natural beauty of the region and established Storm King Art Center to pursue his interest in both art and landscape, open space preservation. In 1961 Ogden traveled to Austria, where he purchased five sculptures that he subsequently sited on Storm King’s grounds, as part of a formal garden scheme.
Then in 1966, he visited the home and studio of the late sculptor David Smith in Bolton Landing, NY. There, the artist had placed his sculptures within the landscape and with the Adirondack mountains as a backdrop. Ogden was inspired to similarly focus Storm King’s efforts around large-scale outdoor sculpture. He purchased thirteen works from the David Smith estate and began to place sculpture directly in the landscape. Since then, every work - both in the permanent collection and for exhibitions - has been sited with consideration of both its immediate surroundings and distant views.
After Ogden’s death in 1974, Stern devoted more time to Storm King and began to develop it into a truly public museum. Stern was instrumental in introducing the Art Center’s native grasses programme, which supports endemic wildlife, limits the growth of invasive species, and enriches the landscape with a rich mosaic of colours and textures.
Stern’s favourite work at Storm King was Isamu Noguchi’s “Momo Taro”, a 40-ton granite sculpture that hugs the earth and sits on a specially landscaped hill.
“Noguchi says there are two ways of proceeding as a sculptor,” Stern told Harvard Magazine. “One is to plan what you’re going to do and then do it. The other is to create, and then see what you have done. Noguchi puts himself in the second category as an artist, and I’d say that’s the way we have created the art center and I have lived my life.”
Noguchi himself stated, “The sculpture lives as part of a hill. It was the hill that got me going, which inspired me.”
Storm King Art Center describes the full realization of “Momo Taro” as depending on the interaction of visitors, who are invited to not just touch, but to enter, to sit and to unite their bodies with the work, to participate in its existence. Noguchi’s flat bench provides a welcome site for rest and contemplation. The “center” of the piece - the hollowed-out granite “peach pit” - serves as a peaceful retreat. Even on the hottest summer days this interior remains cool. In fact, Noguchi’s wish - that visitors, especially children, would not only climb into the cavity of the sculpture but also sing inside it and enjoy its special aural resonance - reflects what Storm King Art Center stands for.
The changing seasons, the scale of the works, and the joy of being outdoors inspire visitors as they encounter art in new and powerful ways. Nearly 100 sculptures from Storm King’s permanent collection and long- term loans are on view across the Art Center’s 500 acres, creating an environment where discovery is limitless. Each visit to Storm King is different, and the vibrant bond between art, nature and people is evident across the dynamic exhibitions and programs presented each season.
The Art Center’s programmes invite contemplative, creative, and joyful participation from a diverse cross section of visitors and enhance the art in nature experience of Storm King. The public programming initiatives range from artist talks and performances connected to special exhibitions, to school visits and teacher workshops, summer camps and artists’ residencies.
Storm King collaborates with artists to execute their creative visions, while simultaneously offering contemplative, provocative and joyful experiences for visitors. It offers a residency programme in collaboration with Shandaken Projects.
The residency encourages experimentation, research and production by providing space and time for residents to do as they wish. Part of the programme experience is living on the Storm King Art Center grounds and living with the rich history of the Hudson Valley region. In fact, Storm King has included visual artists, writers, curators, activists, dancers, and historians, among others.
Exhibitions at Storm King are indeed wholly different in scale, feel and presentation from exhibitions at indoor art museums. The Art Center collaborates with artists to create a transformative experience for visitors that brings them to a new understanding of the artist’s work as well as Storm King’s landscape. Now, in its eighth year, Storm King’s “Outlooks” series invites one emerging or mid-career artist to engage with the landscape and history and create a new, site-specific work to be installed on-site for a single season.
Celebrating its 60th Anniversary in 2020, Storm King continues to grow and evolve through the changing seasons and its interactive artworks, that make it a beautiful piece of art in itself. Nature and Man can create truly together here.
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