Storm King Turns 50

First published in The Daily Beast on June 4, 2010. Read the original, with photos, here.

In putting together Storm King Art Center’s 50th anniversary exhibit 5 + 5, David R. Collens faced a difficult task: designing a show that celebrated the sculpture park’s storied history, while also laying out a road map for Storm King’s next five decades.

Collens, who has been the director and curator of Storm King for more than 35 years, admits to not having done many group shows. For the anniversary, however, Collens worked with 10 artists—five with major exhibitions at Storm King already under their belts, and five mid-career sculptors whom he hadn’t shown before. The resultant exhibit, on view now through November 14, is filled with work by some of today’s most well-known outdoor sculptors.

Alice Aycock , Chakaia Booker, Mark di Suvero, Andy Goldsworthy, and Ursula von Rydingsvard represent the park’s history. To anyone acquainted with modern sculpture, their names conjure up distinct images: Booker’s repurposed tires and wearable pieces; di Suvero’s large-scale steel constructions. But it took more than just name recognition to secure a place in 5 + 5.

“I selected those five artists to represent people who really understood the landscape at Storm King and did something very different,” says Collens. With 500 acres of manicured grounds in the rolling Hudson Valley, Storm King offers a wide variety of sites for installation, yet many artists go no further than the area around the museum building. Collens looked for those sculptors who would do something more innovative.

Goldsworthy has taken one of the park’s existing stone walls and used it to create one of his natural compositions. Visitors are invited to walk the length of the wall (which Storm King calls a “sketch in stone”) and observe the way in which Goldsworthy seamlessly blends natural dilapidation and ephemeral construction.

But Collens’ curatorial vision shines brightest in his selection of the five new artists—John Bisbee, Maria Elena González, Darrell Petit, Alyson Shotz, and Stephen Talasnik. “It was time to pass the torch to a younger generation,” says Collens, an idea with which all of the more experienced artists in the show agree.

5 + 5 brings in not just new sculptors, but ones who embrace daring forms, innovative uses of the space, and original concepts for what outdoor sculpture can be. The show is stretching the dimensions of Storm King and playfully changing the ways in which works on display can coexist.

Sixteen platforms were designed by González to be arrayed throughout the grounds. When viewed from one, visitors on another will look to be part of sculptures in the permanent collection. For instance, from the vantage of platform three, visitors on platform four will look to be perfectly balanced atop Menashe Kadishman’s Suspended sculpture as González incorporates observers into the roles of artist and art.

In Stream: A Folded Dream, Talasnik has created a 12-foot-high, 90-foot-long structure made of more than 3,000 bamboo rods. Throughout the exhibition, it will serve as a backdrop for both music and dance performances, something Storm King hasn’t done before.

“It’s quite a counterpoint to stone and steel and other materials we have,” says Collens. In curating 5 + 5, he wanted to avoid just bringing “more metal into Storm King—[as] we have plenty of it.” The 10 selected artists use everything from metal nails, cedar, and granite to reflective plastic, rubber, and earth.

5 + 5 is as diverse for its sculptors as it is for its works. Talasnik, a visual artist by training, has only been showing sculpture since 2000, while di Suvero had his first museum pieces in 1959. And while the recent documentary Who Does She Think She Is? laments the woeful underrepresentation of women in most major museums, half the artists in 5 + 5 are female.

When asked if this gender parity is purposeful, Collens says: “From my perspective, I’m trying to find the best I can in terms of sculpture, male or female, national or international.” Though if there is one way the exhibit is lacking, it is in terms of geographic and ethnic diversity. All of the artists are American, Canadian or European (though di Suvero was born in China, and Gonzalez in Cuba), all but Goldsworthy live in the United States, and only two are people of color. Storm King, like the art world in general, still has some distance to go.

“I think we need to adapt and change like all institutions,” Collens says. If 5 + 5 is any indication, Storm King’s next 50 years are up to the challenge.

Storm King Art Center is located in Mountainville, New York. Visiting hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m.—5:30 p.m. More information is available at