The Clark’s meadow of sculptures under the stars

  • Upon her first visit to the Clark, Los Angeles-based multimedia artist Analia Saban was charmed by the grazing cows. Her work, a 620-foot fence of varying designs, is a primer on several art theories. Her hope is that the cows will be “intellectually entertained.” Contributed photo/Thomas Clark

  • The Berlin-based artist Haegue Yang has created three large soapstone and resin sculptures based upon the 2018 inter-Korean summit held in her native land at the Demilitarized Zone. Television cameras only recorded birdsong and a bird rests atop each sphere. Contributed photo/CAI

  • Kelly Akashi, a Los Angeles-based artist, created a huge double-concave lens for magnifying the view of an ancient ash tree. The device is partially supported by branches cast in bronze. She said that the intent is to “focus on things you might take for granted.”

  • The Berlin-based artist Nairy Bagharamian stands before her marble and polished steel work “Knee and Elbow.” The abstraction of two of our favorite body parts show the joints as horizontal, at rest. The marble is from a quarry in Querceta, Italy, a mecca for artists from Arp to Isamu Noguchi. Contributed photo/Molly Epstein, courtesy of the artist and the Marian Goodman Gallery

  • New York-based artist Eva LeWitt’s sculpture, of hand-cut colored plastic discs in transparent resin, relies upon the play of light throughout the seasons for its effect. “I wanted to push the limits of height,” she said. The monoliths stand at 11 feet. Contributed photo/CAI

For the Recorder
Published: 3/11/2021 10:49:27 AM

The 14th-century physician and controversial prophet Nostradamus (1503 to 1566) once suggested that humanity would pass through a great age of suffering. Some of us thought he was forecasting the Adam Sandler-movie era; however, to others, he might have foreseen the present day. Some day we’ll return to normal life: wondering which state can create the biggest pizza, learning a new definition for eternity in summertime Cape Cod traffic jams and finding out what our new neighbors actually look like.

In the short term, COVID-19 has been the mother of invention and Williamstown’s Clark Art Institute, through October, is providing a free, creative outing for all ages. Eight original sculptures by world renowned sculptresses are available for viewing at any time, day or night, dotted throughout the institute’s pastoral 140 acres.

“We were really looking for artists who are at the leading edge of their field,” guest curator Abigail Ross Goodman said from her Cambridge home. She shared the planning and selection of artists with her longtime business partner, Molly Epstein. 

“We were thinking about the most dynamic voices,” she continued, “with their own distinct perspectives and points-of-view.”

The global search by the two women began in 2017. Goodman explained that, in making their final choices, their choices of leading artists “just happened to be women.”

A walkabout

On a mild winter day, the Clark’s associate curator Rob Wiesenberger provided a tour of the exhibits beginning with doubtless, at 15 feet, the tallest Aeolian (wind) harp you’ll see in a lifetime. As an appendage of one of the institute’s walls, its nine strings are activated by strong breezes. It’s the first outdoor sculpture that Hudson Valley-based artist Jennie C. Jones has undertaken, titled “These (Mournful) Shores.” 

All of the sculptors visited the institute as an orientation as to its architecture, setting and gallery collections. Jones was impressed by two stormy Winslow Homer maritime paintings and responded with this unique instrument.

Goodman said that when the winds are strong the strings create “a mournful, atonal cry.”

A few yards distant, you’ll find the most artistic 620-foot pasture fence in Western Massachusetts. 

Analia Saban, a native of Buenos Aires now working in Los Angeles, has composed a cedar homage to her mentor, the late conceptual artist John Baldessari. “Teaching A Cow How To Draw” riffs on his 1972 film “Teaching A Plant The Alphabet,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Saban’s fence is a rustic display of forced perspective, the golden rectangle and the rule of thirds. 

“She was charmed by New England,“ Wiesenberger said, “and she imagined what the cows might glean from staring at it all day.” 

“They seems quite delighted,” Goodman noted.

Speaking from her New York City home, Epstein added that in the retreating summer months, as the cows emerged from the trees and moved across the pasture “it looked like they were reading right to left.” 

We ascend Stone Hill, which can be breathtaking in two ways. One is if you’re out of shape. Otherwise, it offers a commanding view of the Hoosac Range and of Williamstown. In milder seasons, if you call ahead you can reserve seating on an electric cart. For the winter, snowshoes are available in all sizes and the hill and its environs are prime for cross country skiing. 

On the edge of the woods, you’ll find Thomas Schütte’s 2015 work “Crystal.” It’s a futuristic wood and zinc-coated copper creation in which the artist imagined how a gem would appear if enlarged thousands of times. Its interior, with comfortable seating, is of finely smoothed Southern yellow pine.

A short distance away is one of three sculptures by Korean native Haegue Yang and titled “Migratory DMZ Birds on Asymmetric Lens.” In a taped institute interview, she noted that the woodsy setting impressed her “both in familiar and unfamiliar ways.” 

It transported her thoughts back to April of 2018 when leaders of North and South Korea met for talks at the Demilitarized Zone. The delegation deserted the numerous media. Television cameras only recorded distant figures and the prominent sounds of clicking cameras and birdsong.

The DMZ, 2½ miles wide and 160 miles long, is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, featuring black bears, Amur leopards and over 350 bird species. The dominant sound of birds inspired Yang’s sculptures that suggest a bonding between those distant fliers and those here in the Berkshires. 

Each sculpture features a cast resin bird resting in a small birdbath atop a robotically sculpted sphere, a form that Yang notes, in her culture, is  “sacred geometry.” 

Touching the sky

Nearby is Eva LeWitt’s first outdoor project, and standing at some 11 feet are “Resin Tower A (Orange), Resin Tower B (Yellow), and Resin Tower C (Blue).” The New York-based sculptress is the  daughter of the late conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, whose 105 large-scale drawings dominate an entire building at North Adams MASSMoCA.

In an institute interview, LeWitt explained that she wanted to break away from traditional uses of wood, stone and steel to create a playful use of light through the seasons. She chose a dominating height to add to the effect.

“I really wanted a feeling of transparency and lightness,” she said. “I wanted them to be highly encounterable.”

As if something from a Salvador Dali dream, the marble and polished steel work by Nairy Baghramian is titled “Knee and Elbow.” The Iranian native lives and works in Berlin. 

“She explains that she’s really interested in the (human) pose in art, performance and dance,” Wiesenberger said. “The ways in which the body is supported and the fluidity of the body.” 

The hand-chiseled Italian marble has considerable weight and, as with many of the pieces, there is a significant substructure. Here there is a submerged concrete pad that holds welded I-beams that secure the visible metal pins to the sculpture, creating a deceptive sense of lightness.

“We were really interested in having a light touch on the landscape,” curator Epstein said. “Although several of the works required significant machinery to get them there.” 

“We were cautious and careful in not disturbing the lands too much and not disturbing things in their placement and (later) de-installation.” 

Los Angeles artist Kelly Akashi creates romantic intrigue with her work “A Device to See the World Twice.” She often works with blown glass and is a student of analog photography. 

In a woodland site, a large, double concave lens is partially supported by branches cast in bronze. When first imagined by Akashi, the device would provide a close-up view of an ash tree at least 120 years of age. Strong storm winds last fall, however, brought the sentinel to ground.  

“It’s sort of a meditation upon a ruin,” Wiesenberger said. 

“I like this idea that you are not only forced to look at what’s happening in the world around you twice,” Akashi said in an institute interview, “but also to really let this device focus your attention.” 

In concluding remarks, Epstein noted that the glass entrance doors to the meadow are open at all hours. “The exhibit was really built on what we saw as the real generosity of the Clark’s landscape,” she said. “That openness really helped us to create this ensemble of interconnected encounters in a natural setting.   One can return again at various seasonal moments and have a new experience.” 

“Ground/Work” continues through Oct. 17. There is no admission charge. The galleries are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Advance tickets purchases are required for timed visits, masks are required both indoors and outdoors. Admission to the museum: $20; ages under 18, free. The cafeteria is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more info visit clarkart.edu.

Don Stewart is a freelance writer who lives in Plainfield. He has written for the Greenfield Recorder since 1994.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy