Site Ecology: Land, Leadership, Art Explores the Making of Storm King and its 60 Year History of Art in Nature
Storm King Art Center, the internationally renowned outdoor sculpture museum in New York’s Hudson Valley, has announced the launch of a special online feature, which will explore six remarkable decades of art in nature at Storm King on the occasion of its 60th anniversary in 2020.
On view at stormking.org from May 18, 2020, the online presentation will explore the history of Storm King’s landscape and the Art Center’s longstanding stewardship of the environment. Organized around three main areas—Land, Leadership, Art—the exhibition brings to light previously unseen documents and photographs from the Storm King archive to illustrate the story of Storm King’s development since its founding.
“Although we don’t yet know when we will be able to welcome visitors back to Storm King, we are excited to tell the story of our landscape and collection through this digital exhibition,” said Storm King President, John P. Stern. “Behind every artwork at Storm King there is an incredible story of how it came to be, but what many of our visitors might not know is the history of our remarkable site—it is the combination of these two elements that gives Storm King its magic.”
The exhibition will feature more than 200 archival images and documents, which bring to life some of the most influential moments in the evolution of Storm King’s landscape, permanent collection and special exhibitions and programs. From its first site-specific commissions to the visionary purchase and subsequent donation of Schunnemunk Mountain to the State of New York, Site Ecology: Land, Leadership, Art celebrates Storm King’s history of environmental stewardship and mission to further an ongoing dialogue between art and nature.
Beginning with Storm King Art Center’s founding in 1960 by Ralph E. Ogden and H. Peter Stern, the exhibition explores how Storm King’s original 200 acre site—which had domestic roots as the Vermont Hatch estate in Mountainville—has been transformed by over 45 years of restorative landscaping to the 500 acres of rolling hills, native grass meadows, and uninterrupted mountain views that visitors experience today.
Although Storm King was originally envisioned as a museum devoted to Hudson River School Painting, by 1961 its founders were committed to presenting modern sculpture. Restoring and preserving Storm King’s unique landscape was an essential part of the Art Center’s work from the very beginning. At the time, the vast majority of its site had been devastated by the construction of the New York State Thruway and work to restore the damaged landscape began immediately with the assistance of landscape architect William A. Rutherford, Sr, who would go on to describe Storm King as first and foremost “an environmental project.”
The online exhibition details the major environmental initiatives—reclamation of industrial sites, land conservation, preservation of wildlife habitat corridors—which had a transformative impact on the current site. Protection of land at Storm King began with the vision of its founder Ralph E. Ogden who in the 1960s acquired 2,300 acres on the east side of Schunnemunk Mountain in an effort to preserve Storm King’s viewshed, known amongst leadership as Storm King’s 'green wall.' With the assistance of the Open Space Institute and under the leadership of Founding Chair H. Peter Stern and Storm King’s Board of Trustees, this land became Schunnemunk State Park, preserving the ridgelines surrounding Storm King’s valley which make up Storm King’s irreplaceable canvas.
Another turning point in Storm King’s early history highlighted in the exhibition is the purchase of 13 works from the estate of David Smith in 1966, which became the first sculptures sited directly in the landscape. Soon after the acquisition, Storm King’s mission expanded to commissioning and presenting works of contemporary art that engaged directly with the natural environment.
The exhibition features some of Storm King’s first site-specific commissions, including Nostoc II (1975) by environmental artist Patricia Johanson, which was the first commissioned work created entirely on site with materials sourced exclusively from Storm King. It reveals preparatory drawings of a work unrealized by Robert Smithson who passed away before completing the project, and explores the making of Maya Lin’s Storm King Wavefield (2007-08), where the artist transformed a previously unused gravel pit in the south of Storm King’s site to the awe-inspiring grass waves that visitors traverse today.
Other significant commissions featured in detail in the exhibition include Richard Serra’s Schunnemunk Fork (1990–91), Andy Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall (1997-98), and John Knight’s 87°(1997–99). Each section reveals the artist’s journey through archival images of the artist’s early experience of Storm King as they explored possibilities for their commission to a behind the scenes look at how the work was constructed and its evolution through the four seasons. This is echoed in a feature looking back on Storm King’s special exhibition program and ongoing Outlooks series, where an emerging or mid-career artist is invited to engage with the Art Center’s landscape and history to produce a new, site-specific work installed on-site for a single season.
The exhibition culminates in a feature that celebrates the vision and commitment of its founders, Board of Trustees, committee members, staff, artists and other passionate supporters who have been instrumental in the making of Storm King over the past sixty years.
Storm King's Director and Chief Curator David R. Collens added, “I hope that this presentation, and the insights it offers into Storm King’s rich history, will add a new layer to our visitors’ experience of the Art Center today. From the incredible commissioned works that define our site to the collaborative, environmental ethos that continues to mold our development, Storm King’s 500 acres are alive with the stories of the artists and leadership that shaped our present.”
Site Ecology: Land, Leadership, Art is organized by Storm King’s Archivist Christine Persche with Josh Goodrich and Audrey Abrams.
Storm King Art Center remains temporarily closed to visitors in compliance with Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward Guidelines. Two presentations by Rashid Johnson and Ugo Rondinone previously announced for 2020 at Storm King have been postponed and will be rescheduled. These changes have been necessitated by Storm King’s current closure due to the global health crisis. Although opening dates have not yet been finalized, the Art Center will present the following special exhibitions when it resumes operations:
Kiki Smith River Light
Kiki Smith’s solo exhibition at Storm King marks the artist’s first presentation of flags—a new element within her expansive production—in the United States. For the exhibition Kiki Smith (b. 1954, Germany) will create a new collection of flags whose unpredictable, ever-changing movement will mimic the ebb and flow of water in a river. The imagery on these flags arises from Smith’s films and photography of the Hudson River and East River in New York. The flags will present an ephemeral installation that is activated by the natural world around it.
Kiki Smith River Light will reference Storm King’s proximity to the Hudson River, and the artist’s intimate consideration of space and context, therein highlighting the Art Center’s distinctive outdoor features.
Kiki Smith River Light is organized by Storm King’s Senior Curator Nora Lawrence.
Outlooks: Martha Tuttle
For the eighth year of its Outlooks program, in which Storm King invites an emerging to mid-career artist to present a large-scale, temporary outdoor project in the landscape, Storm King will present a new commission by New York-based artist Martha Tuttle (b. 1989, United States). This work, entitled A stone that thinks of Enceladus, will mark Tuttle’s first solo museum presentation. Tuttle’s project will unfold across a large, rolling field at the southern end of Storm King’s property.
The work comprises a series of human-made stone stacks or cairns, built of boulders gathered at Storm King, carved marble rocks, and molded glass stones, which the artist created during the winter and spring of 2020. These stacks of stones will be installed amid large boulders from Storm King’s site. Through these carefully placed groupings, the artist invites viewers to recognize their own physicality both on and within land—at Storm King and in the Hudson Valley, specifically—by creating a point of contact between human and non-human energy. Visitors will be able to physically interact with the installation, ensuring viewers have both the space and opportunity for reflection and contemplation.
Outlooks: Martha Tuttle is organized by Storm King’s Senior Curator Nora Lawrence.
Mark di Suvero: E= MC2
Storm King Art Center presents the first US exhibition of internationally renowned sculptor Mark di Suvero’s E=MC2 (1996-97), which at 92 feet and 9 inches is the tallest sculpture by the American artist to date. Created in di Suvero’s studio in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, E=MC2 (1996-97) was previously shown in Paris in 1997 as part of a two-year-long citywide exhibition of the artist’s work and has been on display in Valenciennes, France for the past 10 years.
Widely regarded as one of the most important American artists to emerge from the Abstract Expressionist era, di Suvero remains a prolific artist today with a career spanning more than sixty years. The exhibition of E=MC2 (1996-97) at Storm King continues an unparalleled five-decade-long dialogue between the artist and the Art Center, in which 50 of di Suvero’s works have been exhibited. The recent work, made from steel beams and standing nearly 100 feet tall, has been sited alongside eight other examples of di Suvero’s large-scale sculptures from various stages of his career currently on display in the South Fields and adds a new dimension to a historic vista at Storm King.
Louise Bourgeois: Eyes
The special presentation of Louise Bourgeois’s Eyes (2001) on loan from the Louise Bourgeois Trust will be on view at Storm King until spring 2021. A reoccurring motif in the French-American artist’s practice, the large-scale multi-eyes relate to Storm King’s landscape as undulating waves. Sited on the hillside by Storm King’s North Woods, the sculpture looks out upon the meadows below. The pupils contain an electric light which will be lit up at various points throughout Storm King’s 2020 season.
Eyes (2001) is a two-year loan to Storm King from the Louise Bourgeois Trust and will be on view until spring 2021.
About Storm King Art Center
Storm King Art Center is a 500-acre outdoor museum located in New York’s Hudson Valley, where visitors experience large-scale sculpture and site-specific commissions under open sky. Since 1960, Storm King has been dedicated to stewarding the hills, meadows, and forests of its site and surrounding landscape. Building on the visionary thinking of its founders, Storm King supports artists and some of their most ambitious works. Changing exhibitions, programming, and seasons offer discoveries with every visit.
Storm King Art Center remains temporarily closed to visitors in compliance with Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward Guidelines. Storm King looks forward to welcoming visitors as soon as mandates permit, and guidelines to protect the safety of staff, visitors, and the community are in place. Details and schedule announcements during this time can be found at stormking.org/health.