Storm King Reopens for the Art-Starved


CORNWALL, N.Y. — This week Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all regions of New York except New York City have entered the fourth and last phase of reopening, which authorizes museums, historical sites and other cultural institutions to welcome visitors once more.

Not so fast. From Albany to Suffolk County, almost all of the state’s regional museums have declined to open immediately, and are using these next weeks to prepare to exhibit art under new sanitary conditions — and the new financial constraints that result from them.

Where to go this summer, for the art-starved? You want to be careful, you want as much space as you can get, and more than anything you want to be outdoors. Right now that means your smartest move is the immense Storm King Art Center, a sprawling sculpture park here in the Hudson Valley, which reopens to the public on July 15 after a preview this weekend for members and front-line health care workers. This Arcadia of large-scale and site-specific sculpture, about 70 minutes north of Manhattan in Covid-thinned traffic, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, offering a restorative dose of nature and culture for those in the grip of agitated cities and glaring screens.

Storm King usually opens to the public every April, but the sculpture park used the spring to develop safety protocols and slightly rejigger its program. A visitor center with a small suite of indoor galleries won’t open this year; large group visits are barred, various public programs are suspended, bike rentals are unavailable. To visit you need to book a time slot in advance, and you’ll need a car or a taxi, since there won’t be the usual shuttle service from the Metro-North station in Beacon. The on-site cafe is closed, though restrooms are open.

Bring a mask — you have to wear it when social distancing is impossible, though there’s ample space here — and check the weather: I visited on a flesh-scorching afternoon, trudging across this 500-acre outdoor museum until my head started spinning. (Critic’s pick: a water bottle and a drugstore umbrella!)

Across Storm King’s open fields and rolling meadows are giant works by Sol LeWitt, Alice Aycock, Ursula von Rydingsvard; ensconced within the paths of a wood is smaller, earlier statuary by names grown obscure, as well as a weathered, trowel-nicked concrete slab by Mia Westerlund Roosen, a post-Minimalist sculptor well overdue for rediscovery. A few sculptures here, curators have observed in years past, are notorious for attracting close inspections and caresses: Joel Shapiro’s 21-foot-tall geometric totem of a walking figure; Nam June Paik’s bronze Buddhas watching TV. They have been ringed this season with thin black ropes; not lovely, but you’ll live.

More compelling is a new project by the young artist Martha Tuttle, who has cleared eight acres of tall grass (near Ms. Lin’s “Wave Field”) to present a quietly persuasive sculptural installation, titled “a stone that thinks of Enceladus.” (The title refers to an ice-covered moon of Saturn with a highly reflective surface.)

Ms. Tuttle has gathered boulders from Storm King’s property, most of them about knee-height, and placed them around the clearing with a contrapuntal casualness; resting on each boulder are delicate sculptures of rocks, crafted in the artist’s studio from milky glass or solid marble, and arranged with the same tossed-off elegance as the boulders themselves. These humble cairns conjoin “real” and “artificial” stones, not to mention the lichens growing on the boulders’ surfaces and the grass beneath your feet into a poem of vibrant matter.

At one point here I crouched down in the grass to inspect one of Ms. Tuttle’s boulders, its beige surface speckled with green-gray algae that rhymed with the blue-gray tint of a glass stone — and rhymed too, I suppose, with the surgical mask I sported over my nose and mouth. Her installation, when it was commissioned last year, would have already resounded in a time of climate emergency, when the distinction between “natural” and “man-made” things had begun to lose its sense. It has just as much poignancy in these days of pandemic, when a microscopic pathogen has as much power as humans do to design our environments and shape our world.


Storm King Art Center

The art center, in Cornwall, N.Y., is now open to members through July 13. It will be open to the public July 15 through Nov. 9. Timed-entry tickets are required, and can be purchased in advance. 845-534-3115, stormking.org.



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