CORNWALL, N.Y. — This week Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced that every one areas of New York besides New York City have entered the fourth and final part of reopening, which authorizes museums, historic websites and different cultural establishments to welcome guests as soon as extra.
Not so quick. From Albany to Suffolk County, nearly all of the state’s regional museums have declined to open instantly, and are utilizing these subsequent weeks to arrange to exhibit artwork beneath new sanitary situations — and the new monetary constraints that consequence from them.
Where to go this summer time, for the art-starved? You wish to watch out, you need as a lot house as you will get, and greater than something you wish to be open air. Right now which means your smartest transfer is the immense Storm King Art Center, a sprawling sculpture park right here in the Hudson Valley, which reopens to the public on July 15 after a preview this weekend for members and front-line well being care employees. This Arcadia of large-scale and site-specific sculpture, about 70 minutes north of Manhattan in Covid-thinned visitors, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this 12 months, providing a restorative dose of nature and tradition for these in the grip of agitated cities and obtrusive screens.
Storm King normally opens to the public each April, however the sculpture park used the spring to develop security protocols and barely rejigger its program. A customer middle with a small suite of indoor galleries gained’t open this 12 months; massive group visits are barred, varied public applications are suspended, bike leases are unavailable. To go to you must book a time slot in advance, and you’ll need a car or a taxi, since there won’t be the usual shuttle service from the Metro-North station in Beacon. The on-site cafe is closed, though restrooms are open.
Bring a mask — you have to wear it when social distancing is impossible, though there’s ample space here — and check the weather: I visited on a flesh-scorching afternoon, trudging across this 500-acre outdoor museum until my head started spinning. (Critic’s pick: a water bottle and a drugstore umbrella!)
Across Storm King’s open fields and rolling meadows are giant works by Sol LeWitt, Alice Aycock, Ursula von Rydingsvard; ensconced within the paths of a wood is smaller, earlier statuary by names grown obscure, as well as a weathered, trowel-nicked concrete slab by Mia Westerlund Roosen, a post-Minimalist sculptor well overdue for rediscovery. A few sculptures here, curators have observed in years past, are notorious for attracting close inspections and caresses: Joel Shapiro’s 21-foot-tall geometric totem of a walking figure; Nam June Paik’s bronze Buddhas watching TV. They have been ringed this season with thin black ropes; not lovely, but you’ll live.
In these first days of artistic re-entry, you might find yourself drawn as much to the lush landscape as to the large sculptures that punctuate it. The meadow grasses and wildflowers have grown high around Richard Serra’s “Schunnemunk Fork” (1990-91) a suite of four weathered steel plates that originally sliced across the mowed lawn but now nearly disappear into the brush.
Nearby, Maya Lin’s “Storm King Wave Field” (2009), an 11-acre earthwork of grassy knolls that ripple like the sea, has been reseeded. This undulant non-site, neither properly architecture nor properly sculpture, feels more solemn today than it might have in years past, more of a burial ground than a surf.
Turn your back to the “Wave Field,” take off your mask, breathe in, look out.
Across the southernmost fields of Storm King, Mark di Suvero’s titanic steel articulations remain the paradigmatic sculptures of Storm King, their abstract concatenations of beams and panels towering majestically over the grassland. Among the 10 monumental works here by Mr. di Suvero, the newest arrival is also the largest: the 90-foot-tall “E = MC2” (1996-97), a square pyramid of rusted steel H-beams topped by four stainless steel planks that extend into a sort of crown. It may be giant, but it’s not overawing. Mr. di Suvero understands better than almost any artist the distinction between size and scale — and this serene work, breathing easy in Storm King’s largest field, feels as approachable as a family member.
Along with its permanent sculpture collection, and long-term loans like Mr. di Suvero’s “E=MC2,” Storm King also presents annual exhibitions of new commissions. One of this year’s planned shows, by Kiki Smith, was meant to take place both indoors and outdoors. The indoor part was scrapped, and what remains is of limited interest: “River Light” (2019), a circle of nine flagpoles whose banners derive from cyanotypes (or cyan-blue prints) she made of the East River of Manhattan, its surface flickering with reflected luminescence. (A 10th flagpole, off to one side, supports a flag depicting a Hudson River sunset.)
In the pastoral setting of Storm King, these flags have a pseudo-governmental overtone that feels discordant; they look uncannily like the rows of identical blue flags outside the institutions of the European Union in Brussels. Within this abstract eden, her bronze statues of humans and animals might be a more natural fit.
More compelling is a new project by the young artist Martha Tuttle, who has cleared eight acres of tall grass (near Ms. Lin’s “Wave Field”) to present a quietly persuasive sculptural installation, titled “a stone that thinks of Enceladus.” (The title refers to an ice-covered moon of Saturn with a highly reflective surface.)
Ms. Tuttle has gathered boulders from Storm King’s property, most of them about knee-height, and placed them around the clearing with a contrapuntal casualness; resting on each boulder are delicate sculptures of rocks, crafted in the artist’s studio from milky glass or solid marble, and arranged with the same tossed-off elegance as the boulders themselves. These humble cairns conjoin “real” and “artificial” stones, not to mention the lichens growing on the boulders’ surfaces and the grass beneath your feet into a poem of vibrant matter.
At one point here I crouched down in the grass to inspect one of Ms. Tuttle’s boulders, its beige surface speckled with green-gray algae that rhymed with the blue-gray tint of a glass stone — and rhymed too, I suppose, with the surgical mask I sported over my nose and mouth. Her installation, when it was commissioned last year, would have already resounded in a time of climate emergency, when the distinction between “natural” and “man-made” things had begun to lose its sense. It has just as much poignancy in these days of pandemic, when a microscopic pathogen has as much power as humans do to design our environments and shape our world.
Storm King Art Center
The art center, in Cornwall, N.Y., is now open to members through July 13. It will be open to the public July 15 through Nov. 9. Timed-entry tickets are required, and can be purchased in advance. 845-534-3115, stormking.org.