Saturday, September 15, 2007

Factory town turned Modern Art Destination - Dia: Beacon

I didn't read two continuous sentences all day yesterday - even though I did some studying for the GREs - but there is no reading to report on. The Ragazzo and I did, however, take a drive up to Beacon, New York - a little over an hour north of our fair city - to visit friends and to see Dia Art Foundations upstate home for its collection of art from the 1960s - present.

Beacon was a forgotten, working-class hamlet among a sea of estates, historical sites, and country clubs with views of the Hudson River (except for its appearance in Nobody's Fool the 1994 film with Paul Newman) until Dia decided to open a companion gallery to its location in Chelsea to house its collection. They converted a 300,000 square foot box-printing factory, right on the Hudson River line's railroad tracks, into an immense museum for modern art. While not everything we saw was to my taste - the current exhibit of Sol LeWitt's drawings, for example, did absolutely nothing for me - four exhibits really stood out.

A show of Agnes Martin's work, a painter characterized as a minimalist because almost all her works feature pale horizontal stripes, although I learned from an interesting film about her that she considers herself an abstract expressionist because she sees those forms as a medium for feelings (although NOT for ideas, she insists).
I want to draw a certain response,” Agnes Martin stated in an interview in 1966. “Not a specific response but that quality of response from people when they leave themselves behind, often experienced in nature–an experience of simple joy…the simple, direct going into a field of vision as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean.

The film, With My Back to the World played as a double feature with a film about a completely contrasting contemporary artist - Kiki Smith - at the Film Forum earlier this year. I love films about artists' process, especially when we get to see their work spaces. Here's a link to them both.

Fred Sandback created constructions of colored string that span floor to ceiling and create an illusion of planes of rectangular and triangular shapes - it's probably hard to see them in this image, but you can see the gorgeous exhibition galleries:

Dia is the perfect home for two artists in their collection - Richard Serra's massive curved two-inch-thick slabs of rusted steel - standing inside the space - create these shapes like nuclear plant smoke stacks or the hull of a ship, when inside them they are like a metallic maze:

Lastly, an entire room of Andy Warhol's paintings built on the shape of shadows. The room does for his work what collecting Rothko or Monet's Water Lillies in one place does - it surrounds you with a certain esthetic and allows you to appreciate it on its own terms. I really enjoyed this room:

Their bookstore allowed me a chance to do what I like to do best, browse through and acquire books! But I still managed to not string together two sentences buy finding a book of cartoon drawings 100% Evil, silly fun.

The town of Beacon is not frilly and gentrified as neighboring Rheinbeck, or even sedate and upper-middle class as Garrison - which is a plus as far as I'm concerned. It has a Main Street lined with craft and antique shops, galleries, and a handful of restaurants, but it has some seedy stretches as well. Beacon is an easy day trip and was a welcome change. And now it may be Saturday for the rest of you, but I have to go to work.


Anonymous said...

I'm not much of a Warhol fan but that room looks really cool!

Dewey said...

I would love to be in that Warhol room. I once saw an exhibit of Warhol's and O'Keeffe's flowers, together. It was amazing, to keep switching from his to hers and back again. Before that, I didn't even know he did any flowers.

Ted said...

Dewey - I can't say I knew that either - although I know her's well! I'd love to have seen that.

Anonymous said...

Those rooms are incredible, Ted!!

Sounds like a lovely day ... was the foliage changing?? I was up in Massachusetts yesterday and the leaves are already changing ... I love it.

Ted said...

Sheila - It was much needed, we did see a few changing trees - I just love the fall. Sounds like you enjoyed your trip to Boston, huh?

Anonymous said...

It was awesome! My old stompin' grounds. Also, Spike Lee was at the game. He walked right by me. In full New York Yankee regalia. Ha!!

Also, the Red Sox whooped the Yankees' ass - 10 to 1. It was SO satisfying!