Critics’ Picks

Spencer Finch, Lunar, 2011, two solar panels with charger, light-emitting diodes, and lamp fixture, 11' 4“ x 16' 8” x 11' 6".

Mountainville

“Light and Landscape”

Storm King Art Center
1 Museum Road, New Windsor
May 12 - November 11

Storm King, the Hudson Valley’s longtime mecca of outdoor steel-and-stone sculpture, gets a contemporary boost this summer, as associate curator Nora Lawrence brings in works by fourteen artists, all of whom bring a conceptual approach to the use of light as both subject and material. A tour of the exhibition “Light and Landscape”—snaking over five hundred acres, throughout permanent installations by the likes of Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder, and Andy Goldsworthy—turns up some uninhibited examples of what the illuminated environment can mean to artists today.

Those featured here take on (and then take off from) the venerable tradition of pleinairism, though they wield diodes, latex, and solar panels in lieu of brushes to embody light’s transitory nature. Take, for instance, William Lamson’s 2012 installation Last Light, in which a sheet of metal foil stretches under the surface of a pond, paralleling the exact angle at which the setting sun’s rays approach the water on the summer solstice—a bittersweet tribute to both the apex and the decline of summer. Spencer Finch’s spherical sculpture Lunar, 2011, meanwhile, absorbs solar energy by day; by night it converts the celestial radiance and glows to resemble a full moon.

Others go beyond visual observation. Peter Coffin has implanted an apiary on the outskirts of Storm King to pose the question: “What does sunlight taste like?” (Weekly beekeeper-led tours end in a honey tasting to give an answer.) Taking a more encyclopedic approach, Katie Holten has installed a color-coded library in one of Storm King’s indoor galleries. Her books’ topics range from optics and physics to gardening and Impressionist painting; Adirondack chairs just outside offer a leisurely place for visitors to peruse them.

Rather than analyzing or mimicking rays, several sculptures on view bend light instantaneously, to destabilizing effect: Through mirrors, Olafur Eliasson’s Kaleidoscopic Telescope, 2001, and Anish Kapoor’s concave Untitled, 1997, confound perception as the viewer moves before them—a very visceral reminder that the ways we interpret our perceptions of light are ever changing in space and time.