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Everything Under The Sun

"Light & Landscape" at Storm King Art Center

By Edward Rubin

With 500 acres of rolling meadows and wooded groves Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, one hour north of New York City – arguably North America’s most beautiful sculpture park – just keeps getting better and better. Just when one asks what else Storm King can do that they haven’t already done in the past fifty-two years since their founding – you know how we all crave the new – like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, they surprise us with "Light & Landscape," a thrilling exhibition that smacks of magic mixed with a heady dollop of science, physics, and ecological concerns.

Alyson Shotz, "Mirror Fence," 2003. Acrylic, wood, aluminum, stainless steel, 36” x 130.’Courtesy of artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York. Photograph: Jerry L. Thompson.

Deftly organized by Associate Curator Nora Lawrence, "Light & Landscape" features the art of fourteen artists "all who use a variety of strategies to engage with light as a central component of their work." It was these very words, jumping out at me from their press release, which compelled me to visit Storm King. I just had to see how such a beguiling premise could be successfully realized, both indoors and out, in sculpture, installation, drawings, photography, as well as video. Much to my surprise I got more than I ever thought possible.

The exhibition with twenty-five permanent, on loan, and newly commissioned works was inspired, so says curator Lawrence, by Alyson Shotz’s stellar "Mirror Fence" (2003)—a 130 foot stretch of fence whose mirrored pickets reflect the viewer’s every movement, as well as the beauty of park’s surrounding landscape. Playing with the effects of light are two of Shotz’s angulated, laser-cut acrylic-ribboned sculptures titled "Transitional Objects." Situated in a small indoor gallery, both works rely on light streaming through the gallery’s windows to bring the sun’s hidden colors to life.

Katie Holten, "Sun Clock (Making Time)," 2012. Latex, varnish, steel, papier-maché, concrete, and aluminum, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and VAN Horn, Düsseldorf

Also using the light of the sun to activate their creations are artists Katie Holton, Spencer Finch, and Peter Coffin. On sunny days, Holton’s "Sun Clock (Making Time)" (2012) tells the time of day by using viewers’ shadows as they stand outside in front of one of the twelve monthly planet shaped markers. "Timeline (A Light History of the Earth)" (2012), situated indoors, is a Holton constructed circular bookshelf. Measuring 4.56 feet in diameter to match the earth’s 4.56 billion years of existence, the bookshelf is filled with books on the subject of light. Additional books on light, along with Adirondack chairs, are scattered throughout the park for the visitors’ reading and resting pleasure.

"Lunar" (2011), Spencer Finch’s solar powered geodesic dome which looks like an outer space capsule that just landed in the middle of the meadow depends on the rays of the sun to illuminate it. Startling visible at night from the Thruway after a full day of sun, during the day, when the sky is overcast and gray it lights up partially. Delightfully unexpected – as many of the works in this exhibition are – is Peter Coffin’s "Untitled (Bees Making Honey)" (2012), a fenced in area containing four active beehives. Though not exactly a work of art the inclusion of live beehives does highlight the role that sunlight plays in the bee’s production of honey, as well as their navigation back to the hive. The popularity of Finch’s and Coffin’s works has spawned early evening and weekend guided tours.

Anthony McCall, Peter Coffin, and Roni Horn, each tackling the subject of light in a different medium, occupy Storm King’s largest gallery. In "Landscape for Fire," a 1972 video, McCall using fire as the medium of light sets a series of finely calibrated fires on a sports field at Oxford University. In "Untitled (Weather)" (2010-2011), a series of 5 colored photographs, Horn captures the subtle changes that varying weather conditions effect on one woman’s face. Resting on the floor nearby is Horn’s "Untitled (“…it was a mask, but the real face was identical to the false one”)" (2009-2010) a stunning sky-blue cube of solid glass polished to a fare thee well. Casting a yellow shadow across the entire room is Coffin’s "Untitled (Yellow Outline)" (2008-2012), a solitary window covered by the artist with thin layer of yellow translucent Solex stained glass film.

William Lamson, "Solarium," 2013. Steel, glass, sugar, plants. 10’ 10” x 8’ 11” x 10’ 3 3/8” (330.2 x 271.8 x 313 cm). Courtesy of artist and Pierogi Gallery. Photograph: Jerry L. Thompson

Isolated in the middle of a meadow like the house in Wyeth’s Christina’s "World is Solarium" (2012), William Lamson’s glimmering glass house composed of hundreds of small variously shaded

amber panels of baked sugar sandwiched between panes of glass. Kaleidoscopic to say the least, the structure which the artist refers to as an 'experimental greenhouse' as it does house a few plants in the process of photosynthesizing, would not be out of place in a Disney film, or for that matter in a remake of the Wizard of Oz.

Equally magical are the creations of Katie Paterson. In "Streetlight Storm" (2009) the artist uses Skype to connect the lanterns above the building’s two entrances to an antenna in Britain which detects lightning from the Arctic Circle to North Africa and transforms its signals into transmittable data that causes the lantern’s bulbs to flicker. In "100 Billion Suns" (2011), a hand-held cannon designed by Paterson spews out 3,216 pieces of confetti, each one representing the 3,216 times sunbursts have been photographed since 1960. Shot off once a day at 2PM, this fusillade of confetti is a celebration of creativity. And for those leaving the park after a wonder-filled morning a festive Bon Voyage salute.

"Light & Landscape" May 12 - November 11, 2012
Storm King Art Center is located on Old Pleasant Hill Road, in Mountainville, New York. Drivers with GPS should enter as a destination: 1 Museums Road, New Windsor, NY 12553. Public transportation from New York City to Storm King is served by Coach USA, leaving from Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Edward Rubin, based in New York City, writes on the arts, culture, and entertainment. He can be reached at

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