Oct 21, 2011

REVIEW | LANDSCAPES FOR ART Contemporary Sculpture Parks

Twiddling through what my next sculpture project might be, I stumbled upon the book LANDSCAPES FOR ART: Contemporary Sculpture Parks. Immediately fascinated by the thought of the monumental work, site specific placement, and material choices, I dove right in. Having endless possibilities in the realm of material, location, and lifespan of the work, LANDSCAPES FOR ART: Contemporary Sculpture Parks was composed as a collection of essays; making the writing perspectives just as limitless. Each topic, Designing Sculpture Parks, The Garden-Book, Alternative Outdoor Spaces  to names a few of the forty plus, was written by a variety of critics, artists, landscape architects and planners, park founders and administrators. These diverse views are tailored to the individuals focus, in turn guiding the reader to new perspectives.

Aerial view of Olympic Sculpture Park, with Richard Serra, Wake, 2004.

Designing Sculpture Parks: The Full Body Experience by Barbara Swift was the first on my list of interests. Swift herself is a Landscape Architect. Swift emphasizes the absolute need for understanding interaction and organization in design. Creating environments where the viewer’s awareness of self, interaction with an object and the objects context is the principle matter of designing the space. However, Swift goes on to list the nuts and bolts of the work:

Vistas, view corridors, landforms, and enclosure, coupled with kinesthetic experience of moving through the landscape, structure the experience of place with a focus on the interaction of context and object. Rich ecosystems and the phenomenological characteristics of a specific landscape inextricably link the act of seeing with movement, smell, temperature, weather, seasons, and memory, resulting in a full-body experience of a specific time and place in the context of cultural references. This is the beautiful coupling of the sublime and the rational, of culture and biology.

These insightful experienced thoughts result in work such as Olympic Sculpture Park by the downtown Seattle waterfront. The location posed several challenges as it is set upon a slopping hillside, three grade changes in the land, bisecting roads and train tracks, and three sides on cacophony urban life. Swift worked through the challenges at hand to create an outside of the museum viewing arena, aside Elliot Bay. 

View of Socrates Sculpture Park with (foreground) Jude Tallichet, Flash Park, 2004.

Next I viewed the essay Alternative Outdoor Spaces: Socrates Sculpture Park as a Case Study by Alyson Baker. Baker has recently been selected to assume the directorship of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, following an eleven-year directorship at Socrates Sculpture Park, an outdoor museum and artist residency program located in in Long Island City, New York.

Baker having deep roots in Socrates Sculpture Park is well versed on parks history, from the humble beginnings to the steady pace it has kept for the past twenty years.  When founded by Mark di Suvero in 1986, the site was a city abandoned lot and illegal dumpsite. Located directly on the East River, with views of the Manhattan skyline, and without the restriction of ceilings Di Suvero could see the potential. Offering artists a place to build their work and have a public viewing space. This artist driven institution fosters outdoor as well as indoor sculpture practice while servings it’s local and global community. 

A great deal of perseverance and a resolute belief in the transformative power of creative expression have allowed a tremendously dedicated family of artists, patrons, volunteers, neighbors, and government leaders, to forge a common ground. Setting a standard for ways in which artists and communities can work together while remaining relevant in the larger context of a rapidly  expanding international art world is one of Socrates' greatest achievements.

While I remain a undergrad reading through these essays, i take from it the opportunity to work to expand, literally. In parameters, from square feet to the unrestrained. As well as from my central community, to an equally expansive audience.

Amanda Castanon

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