Perched on the banks of the Hudson River in the city of Beacon, New York, the Dia:Beacon museum is just a 90-minute train ride from Manhattan’s Grand Central Station.
Sculpture as Place
Map of Broken Glass (right)
Leaning Mirror (left)
DIA: BEACON A MAGNET FOR CONTEMPORARY ART LOVERS
The Dia Art foundation has pioneered the conversion of industrial buildings as spaces to showcase contemporary art since 1974, with the latest being Dia:Beacon that opened in 2003. It currently occupies 240,000 square feet of exhibition space, housed in a former Nabisco box-making facility-the same company that makes world-renowned Oreo cookies.
Featuring permanent large-scale artworks from iconic artists of the sixties and seventies, with names like Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Blinky Palermo, Fred Sandback, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, just to name a few. Each gallery space has been artfully curated to showcase a singular artist’s works, all of which are bathed in natural luxuriant light and a grandness that parallels the space itself.
As you enter the museum, one is greeted by the presence of Sculptor Carl Andre’s first retrospective solo show since the 1970’s, which is only on exhibition till March 2015. Dia:Beacon is a real treat for contemporary art lovers, and a reprieve for city dwellers looking for a serene escape from the concrete jungle of New York.
Three of Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipses (1996-97) and a torqued spiral, 2000 (2000), are on view in the facility’s former train shed. In form and scale these monumental sculptures offer an unforgettable physical experience, in which space shifts and moves in unexpected ways. Visitors enter the interiors of the works by passing through openings in the massive Cor-Ten steel plates. Navigating the sculptures from within may be disorienting, as one frequently sees the converse of what is occurring at one’s feet happening over one’s head, making it especially difficult to track visually the curvature of the wall surfaces. The footprint of the sculpture and the shape of its upper profile only become clear from within. Each is a perfect ellipse, and each has the same radius; however, these ellipses are not aligned but angled dramatically one to the other, resulting in unprecedented spatial experiences.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Carl Andre produced a number of sculptures which are now counted among the most innovative of his generation. Along with figures such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse and Robert Morris, Andre played a central role in defining the nature of Minimalist Art. His most significant contribution was to distance sculpture from processes of carving, modeling, or constructing, and to make works that simply involved sorting and placing. Before him, few had imagined that sculpture could consist of ordinary, factory-finished raw materials, arranged into straightforward configurations and set directly on the ground. In fact, during the 1960s and 1970s many of his low-lying, segmented works came to redefine for a new generation of artists the very nature of sculpture itself.
Robert Smithson’s oeuvre represents a reconsideration of the nature of sculpture, or of sculpture in relation to “nature.” The four works at Dia:Beacon set up contrapuntal relationships between the institutional indoors and the great outdoors by importing into the gallery natural and industrial materials, which at the time had seldom been employed to create sculpture. In these works, sand, gravel, rock salt, glass, and other materials are heaped into forms responding more to gravity than handcrafting. By using mirrors, these works visually and thematically embody both their surroundings and their viewers within their own materiality. In Gravel Mirrors with Cracks and Dust (1968), mirrors-whose surfaces were shattered by the addition of gravel-line the junction of floor and wall. Their reflective depths expand the compass of the work to incorporate the other side of the gallery, including the viewer who enters its field.