Landscape for Modern Sculpture : Storm King Art Center


The monumental sculpture of the postwar years has generally achieved, at best, an uneasy truce with its surroundings, too often crowned into urban settings that compete with, rather than complement, its scale and visual power. But at Storm King Art Center - a 200-acre country estate transformed into a sculpture park - sculpture and landscape are brought together in the most deliberate manner and to the dramatic enhancement of both. The collection features works by master sculptors such as Alexander Calder, Mark ...
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The monumental sculpture of the postwar years has generally achieved, at best, an uneasy truce with its surroundings, too often crowned into urban settings that compete with, rather than complement, its scale and visual power. But at Storm King Art Center - a 200-acre country estate transformed into a sculpture park - sculpture and landscape are brought together in the most deliberate manner and to the dramatic enhancement of both. The collection features works by master sculptors such as Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, and David Smith, as well as by many younger artists. Several pieces have been commissioned for specific sites at Storm King, while the others have been sensitively installed throughout the park's striking terrain. This handsome volume captures the many pleasures of a visit to one of the world's finest outdoor collections of twentieth-century sculpture. Using multiple views and details, as well as spectacular aerial shots, photographer David Finn reveals a great deal about these works that casual viewers might otherwise miss. The thoroughly engaging text by John Beardsley conveys the distinctive spirit of Storm King and provides an enlightening look at the development of both the collection and the landscape over the past twenty-five years.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896595873
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/1985
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 112

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Since the Storm King Art Center was founded twenty-five years ago, some of the finest pieces of modern sculpture have found a home amidst its beautiful rolling hills and woodlands. Located in Mountainville, sixty miles north of New York City, the property is nestled in a lovely valley between Schunnemunk and Storm King mountains. Creating harmonious interaction between this striking Hudson River Valley landscape and the monumental works of art has been one of the Art Center's most exciting challenges.

In its early years, the driving force and much of the support for the Art Center came from Ralph E. Ogden, who died in 1974. Having gradually retired from business in the 1950s, he began collecting art with his wife, Margaret, herself a collector and great-niece of the painter Thomas Hovenden. In 1958 the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation purchased a two-hundred-acre estate, on which Ogden's friend and neighbor Vermont Hatch had built a Normandy-style chateau, and donated it to the newly founded Storm King Art Center. Inspired in part by photographs of the Henry Moore sculptures on Sir William Keswick's sheep farm in Glenkiln, Scotland, Ralph Ogden conceived the idea of developing the Art Center into an open-air museum. While traveling in Austria in 1961 he visited a quarry near the Hungarian border, and after purchasing a number of sculptures done on-site as part of a contest sponsored by the Austrian government, he became engrossed by the challenge of locating them outdoors at Storm King. In 1967 he went to Bolton Landing in upstate New York to see the work of the late David Smith. He decided to buy, and promptly did so in a big way, acquiring all at once thirteen Smithsculptures from the 1950s and '60s. Eight of this group are located outdoors, as at Bolton Landing, with five of the more delicate ones situated inside the museum building. These sculptures constitute a significant nucleus of Smith's work, and their presence at the Art Center has created wide interest in Storm King.

In the last ten years the Art Center has sought to acquire major works by modern masters and to site each of them with a sensitivity to the sculpture and to the landscape. In 1975 Kenneth Snelson's Free Ride Home was purchased and this graceful work of suspended aluminum tubes was placed on the small sculptured hill around which the entrance road curves. Some works were acquired after being on loan to the Art Center. Alexander Liberman's Iliad, for example, was purchased following the exhibition of his outdoor works at Storm King in 1977. This bright orange sculpture provides a focal point for visitors entering or leaving the Art Center. In 1981 Mon Père, Mon Père and Mother Peace were acquired from Mark di Suvero, after they had been on loan for a number of years. Di Suvero placed them in a wide arc, together with two works he had generously loaned. They interact with each other in a dramatic manner whether viewed from the upper area or the fields below. Alexander Calder's The Arch, one of his largest and most important works, was purchased in 1982 and placed in the spacious field at the entrance to the Art Center. Louise Nevelson's City on the High Mountain, the latest of Storm King's major acquisitions, was installed in 1984. This piece, consisting of black steel plates with one playful moving element, faces the building and can be enjoyed from the entrance as well as from the galleries.

Those who visit Storm King carry away with them a vivid memory of Isamu Noguchi's Momo Taro. Noguchi first came to Storm King in the summer of 1977 and immediately expressed his enthusiasm for the place. Within a few days he had conceived a unique new piece consisting of nine massive stones shaped to invite visitors to sit upon and among them. He chose a location on a hilltop to be especially prepared, which overlooked the David Smith area to the south and the foothills of the Catskills to the west. Noguchi's forty-ton sculpture was created at his home on the island of Shikoku in Japan from granite from the neighboring island of Shodoshima and brought to the Art Center in May 1978.

In addition to the works of monumental size, the Art Center has also added to the collection a number of smaller pieces, including works by newer and less well-known artists. With the generous assistance of the National Endowment for the Arts, sculptures were acquired by Carl Andre, Louise Bourgeois, Herbert Ferber, Mary Frank, Richard Friedberg, Charles Ginnever, Lyman Kipp, Robert Murray, Ann Norton, Joel Perlman, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Charles Simonds, Ann Sperry, Richard Stankiewicz, Tal Streeter, George Sugarman, Ernest Trova, and Isaac Witkin. Cynthia Hazen Polsky, vice-president of the Art Center, has assisted us in this effort, contributing one or more works each year since 1977. Her gifts include sculptures by John Duff, Mary Frank, Arthur Gibbons, Jim Huntington, Mel Kendrick, Hubert Long, Louise Nevelson, and Mia Westerlund Roosen.

William A. Rutherford, a remarkably creative landscape architect, has been a key figure in the development of the Art Center. His sensitive work with the terrain has produced graceful hills and slopes that support, balance, and enhance the sculptures resting on them. Rutherford's twenty-five-year association with the Art Center has given continuity and unity to the extensive planting of trees, sculpturing of hills, and planning for the future development of the land. Storm King has been fortunate to have an equally close association with his wife, Joyce M. Rutherford, an architect who has subtly changed the Art Center building from a private mansion to a public exhibition space, designing an office from the former kitchen and garage and a reception area from the former porte-cochere. She has also designed houses for the groundskeepers at the boundaries of the Art Center property.

David R. Collens, an expert on twentieth-century outdoor sculpture, joined the staff in the fall of 1974, became curator in 1975, and has served as director since 1978. He has organized the Art Center's annual exhibition and is well known for the sensitive installations that reflect his remarkable eye and his special feeling for matching site and sculpture. His passionate devotion to the Center and to the sculptures has been infectious to all who have worked with him, and I have especially enjoyed working with him in the placement of larger works.

My love of the area around Mountainville, where I have lived for thirty years, has found expression in service to many artistic and educational projects, which has included participation on the boards of Vassar College, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Storm King School, Scenic Hudson, and Mid-Hudson Pattern. My deepest commitment, however, has been to the development of the Storm King Art Center, which I have served as president since its inception.

The technical expertise developed at Storm King for the care of outdoor sculpture has been appreciated by many artists who have followed the museum's suggestions for the maintenance, painting, and safety of their works. As president of a nearby company that manufactures metal fasteners, I have been able to make available to the Art Center the technical advice of some of the company's engineers. I am grateful in particular to Lester O. Knaack for his assistance in designing strong but inconspicuous concrete bases and for his advice on the safety of bolts and fasteners, rust prevention, and the selection of the most durable paints. In the early years some of the large pieces were struck by lightning, and ingenious research was required to develop lightning rods that could be placed out of sight inside the sculptures. We have instituted systematic inspection, cleaning, and care of the sculptures all year round. Additional effort is required in winter, when the works that are liable to wind damage must be secured and some of the smaller ones moved inside for protection, while others require wooden box shelters.

With the generous help of museums and other institutions, artists, and private lenders, the Art Center has presented a number of major exhibitions during its season, which extends from the middle of May until the end of October. In recent years the policy has been to create exhibitions within the building that relate to artists represented in the collection. These have included the David Smith exhibition in 1976, which encompassed sculpture, paintings, and drawings as well as photographs of Smith, some of which had been taken by other artists. The show included a series of paintings by Dorothy Dehner of their early years together at Bolton Landing, entitled Life on the Farm. This series was subsequently purchased by the Art Center and is now on view in the museum. A retrospective in 1977 of paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures by Alexander Liberman complemented the first outdoor display of his monumental works. The English artist Anthony Caro actively participated in positioning a group of his sculptures on the lawn area behind the building for the 1981 exhibition of his work. In 1983, inspired and assisted by David Finn, we organized a show of Henry Moore's sculpture in coordination with exhibitions of that artist's work in New York City, including the major retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A year later, with the generous help of William S. Lieberman, chairman of the museum's Twentieth-Century Art Department, we presented Twentieth-Century Sculpture: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included recent acquisitions of modern sculpture as well as a selection of works that had never before been on public display.

In September 1979 the Art Center, with its increased following and national recognition, became a public museum. In order to assist in the implementation of programs, new members were added to our board of directors. J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has been a devoted and creative supporter. Cynthia Hazen Polsky—an artist, collector, and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art—joined the board in 1977 and became vice-president in 1979. She has worked with the board on every phase of the Art Center's development. Howard W. Lipman, chairman of the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art and a major collector in several fields, including modern art, has provided guidance on acquisitions. Leslie A. Jacobson, now of counsel and until recently chairman of the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson, has been generous with legal and practical advice. Eugene L. Cohan, vice-president and treasurer, has volunteered many hours keeping the financial affairs in order, and Secretary Spencer L. Koslan has ably handled our regulatory, real estate, and legal questions. Lowell Wadmond, until recently senior partner of White & Case and for many years chairman of the Metropolitan Opera, has been a staunch supporter.

David Finn, a renowned photographer of sculpture, first visited Storm King in 1977. His enthusiastic response to the Art Center resulted in his generous offer to create a photographic book about it. Finn discussed the project with the late Harry Abrams, whose own enthusiasm led to the publication of Sculpture at Storm King by Abbeville Press in 1980. David Finn's photographs in that book—as in this one—magically capture the essence of the works of art and their relation to the land. He has taken pictures in the dogwood season of spring and in the golden time of fall, and, for the first time, he has taken panoramic photographs of the Art Center from a helicopter, which literally add a new perspective to this book.

To promote broader public participation Storm King inaugurated the Friends of the Storm King Art Center in 1978. Special credit goes to Georgene Zlock, who has assisted in administering our Friends program. We are grateful for the warm support we have received from many individuals, corporations, and foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. This support, as well as the public response to the Art Center and its unique programs, is heartening. We look forward to the further realization of the Art Center's potential, showing works of the twentieth century—particularly monumental sculpture—in our unique setting.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Introduction 9
A Landscape for Modern Sculpture 17
The Collection 21
The Landscape 75
Equilibrium 81
Artists' Biographies 95
Exhibitions 108
Bibliography 109
Index 111
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