Andy Goldsworthy

ANDY GOLDSWORTHY'S OUTDOOR ART has prehistory in the American Earthworks of artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson and in the more delicate strain of land art made by Goldsworthy's British compatriots, notably Richard Long and Hamish Fulton. Responding to the circumscribed landscape of England rather than to the boundless one of the Americas, Long and Fulton have acted with tactful diplomacy, marking the countryside unobtrusively or not at all—both have simply documented walks they have taken. Similarly, Goldsworthy often makes art that will vanish with the rain. Even his relatively permanent works—such as the drystone wall at Storm King, the sculpture park in the Hudson River valley north of New York City—respect the lay of the land as Earthworks in America did not.

Storm King Wall, 1997–98, is the heart of Goldsworthy's upstate show but stands at its very edge, in an outlying part of the grounds. Here, where an open field meets a patch of rough woods, Goldsworthy found the tumbledown remains of a drystone wall. Working with an imported crew of British artisans, he rebuilt this wall with fieldstone from the site, but did so as a farmer never would have. Descending to the west toward a pond, the five-foot-high wall plays hide-and-seek with the trees, weaving in and out of them in a series of willowy loops. Then, instead of stopping at the water's edge, it seems to continue beneath the surface. Across the pond you'll see it emerge, make a dogleg turn, and head in a straight rush across open fields toward the park's boundary, where it stops short a hundred yards from a busy highway. The wall is expertly made, its ingenious jigsaw-puzzle structure cohering without mortar or cement. Goldsworthy has invited an enduring craft tradition to play, making function manifest humor, grace, and an artmaker's intelligence.

Back at Storm King's main building, along with photographs of earlier, transient pieces, Goldsworthy has installed a group of works that explore indoor/outdoor convergences. In Tree Fold, 2000, a six-foot-tall wall of imported Scottish sandstone arcs between two French windows in a corner room and picks up on the outside of the glass to encircle a tree; Two Oak Stacks, 2000, involves one large globe of stacked branches on the lawn and a second one that fills an indoor space to bursting. In the floor installation River, 2000, a thick layer of dove gray local clay is splintering into an overall craquelure as it slowly hardens. At Galerie Lelong was a wall-mounted piece in the same material; here the crevices in the cracked clay exposed the network of human hair that kept the piece from falling apart as it dried.

These indoor installations astutely transfer Goldsworthy's natural concerns into unnatural contexts, but need the complement of the outdoor works to make their fullest sense. Those works owe debts to aesthetic arguments that emerged in the '60s, but they also look to much older cultures—British farming communities in which land use is closely adapted to local conditions, mainly, though I would also suspect the influence of literary traditions going back to the Romantic poets, and perhaps more recent approaches by writers like W.G. Hoskins, who could read the English landscape like a book. Storm King is a handsome park, but its various works in the big-chunk-of-metal school of outdoor sculpture point up how much the sensitivity and modesty of Goldsworthy's art have to say to American artists and audiences.

David Frankel